After a team-building outing in Port Hardy this past weekend, according to CBC, the Vancouver Island Premier League U15 girls Riptide soccer team, based in Comox, has been suspended following a dispute by one of the players over the sponsorship of the team by Marine Harvest, a large fish farm company.
Goalkeeper Freyja Reed, a 14-year old formerly from Sointula, who has a huge passion for soccer, says she was shocked to discover her elite team was going to be sponsored by one of the largest operators of open-net fish farming in B.C.
Freyja Reed and her mother Anissa Reed complained about the sponsorship because of their long-held belief that fish farming causes harm to wild salmon.
In an email to all members of the team, the Riptide Steering Committee, the organization running the club, said, “Due to the current situation and to ensure the safety and privacy of all Riptide players, the 2001 Girls program will be suspended until further notice.”
Anissa Reed has long been a vocal opponent of fish farms according to CBC News.
The eight teams of young people aged 14-18, formerly known as the Upper Island Riptide Soccer Association, play under the newly-named Marine Harvest Riptide banner, and have been issued jerseys, track jackets and rain jackets featuring the company logo.
The suspension includes all team training, team functions and games. The email states that a team meeting will be held at a future date.
Freyja Reed responded to her teammates saying, “I never intended to hurt my teammates by speaking out, or intrude on their privacy, and it is sad to hear that our team events and activities have been suspended for an unknown amount of time.”
“I wish I could have explained it to you before, but I had to speak up against our sponsor … they go against so much that I believe in and as much as I love my team and want to be with them, I would have never signed up to play for Marine Harvest (I was unaware they would become our sponsor).
“This is all so very unfortunate. But I need you to know I cannot apologize for standing up for what I believe in.”
Sean Arbour, who is with the Riptide Steering Committee, sent a statement to the CBC Monday afternoon explaining the club’s decision.
“We have had to pause our 2001 Girls’ team events due to continued breach of our organization’s code of conduct by the Reed family, and our concern for the privacy and safety of our club’s players, parents, and volunteers,” said Arbour.
“We will be meeting with the Reed family to discuss the matter, and hope to find a solution that may meet the expectations and values of club and family.”
Freyje Reed did not join her U15 Girls teammates on a team trip to a Marine Harvest fish farm. (Marine Harvest Canada/Facebook)
CBC first reported last week that the Reed family balked at what they described as a “gag order” from the Riptide Steering Committee that runs the soccer club.
That order bars both mother and daughter from voicing their opinions about fish farming with other team parents and ordered them to stop all “sideline chatter” or social media discussing their views of Marine Harvest.
They were told that if they didn’t remove a Facebook page created to oppose the Marine Harvest sponsorship, Freyja Reed might have to play elsewhere.
“This email will be considered a ‘strike one,'” wrote the Riptide Steering Committee.
Marine Harvest won’t say how much it pays to sponsor the teams fielded by the organization.
The Reeds moved to Comox last year from their home in the remote community of Sointula specifically so Freyja could play Tier 2 soccer.
“I’ve made a lot of friends,” said Freyja. “I have a lot of fun. I believe I can use my skills and talent to get an education and play at college.”
This fall, the Riptide Soccer Association announced its corporate sponsor was Marine Harvest Canada. A press release states funds would be used for “unprecedented” skill development for its players, including video analysis, an online coaching library and player-mentor coaching camps.
When Anissa Reed objected to youth teams being branded by a fish farm company, the association told her Freyja could have her fees back and find another club.
The Reeds have been contacted by Willie Mitchell, an NHL player who was raised in Port McNeill.
Willie Mitchell, captain of the Florida Panthers, tweeted his support for Freyja Reed who was asked to stop speaking out against her soccer team’s sponsor, a fish farming company.
In a tweet to Freyja, Mitchell wrote, “The ability to speak up for what we believe in is why we are so privileged to live in N.A. Freyja Reed I will sponsor you!”
The Reed family plans to speak with Mitchell later this week to ask for his advice.
– Port Hardy Gazette
Sports editor’s note: When contacted, the Riptide referred the the Comox Valley Record to the following media release on their website:
October 26th 2015
The Riptide Program is built on the UISA Vancouver Island Premier League Regional Team Program’s three guiding principles: Attainability, Accessibility, and Player-Based. The Riptide program will allow Upper Island players the ability to move along a developmental pathway from our current Club/House system, up through our UISA Development Leagues, and into the Riptide program. This will ensure the small step up to the EA Sports BC Soccer Premier League is attainable for our Riptide players.
Above is our Mission Statement.
In order to complete our mission it requires commitment from our Players, Parents, Coaches, and our Community. The success of the Riptide family depends on these groups working together and supporting each other to ensure our players are in a position to achieve the objectives outlined in the mission statement. To meet our mission statement objectives, our expectations of each group are very clear. The Riptide program supports these groups in the form of elite, fun, safe training, game day analysis, parent meetings, coaching seminars / conferences, and sponsorship exposure. The Riptide program also holds each one of these groups accountable in the form of meetings, evaluations, and Codes of Conduct.
It is not a right, but rather a privilege to be a part of the Riptide family.
Yours in Soccer
Riptide Steering Committee