It’s not what soccer player Freyja Reed, 14, and her mother, Anissa, wanted to have happen – but they won’t apologize for standing up for what they believe.
That’s the message from the Reed family to both Freyja’s teammates and the community at large after the U-15 program – which serves Campbell River, Comox Valley and North Island players – was “paused” until further notice by the organization’s steering committee last weekend.
“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,” committee member Sean Arbour told the CBC after team operations were suspended.
The “conduct by the Reed family,” in question is their outspoken opposition to the program’s acceptance of sponsorship by Marine Harvest Canada, B.C.’s largest operator of open-net fish farms – a practice the family strongly believes is harmful to the ecology of our coastal waters.
The Upper Island Riptide and Marine Harvest Canada announced their sponsorship partnership in late August of this year, after the teams were formed. The Reeds have said they would not have joined the organization had they known it would be sponsored by a company whose very existence they oppose.
Once they spoke out about the sponsorship – which included a Facebook page devoted to their opposition – they were told they could have their fees back and find another club to play for. Since the next nearest Tier-2 club would be in more than an hour away, and the family had recently relocated to the Comox Valley from Sointula with the primary purpose of giving Freyja a better opportunity to develop in soccer, they instead came to an agreement with the team that Freyja would not be forced to wear the Marine Harvest logo on her jersey or sell salmon at the team’s fundraisers.
But the Reeds were also asked, under this agreement, to stop their “sideline chatter” and social media discussions on the subject.
The family balked at that aspect of the agreement, describing it as a “gag order.”
For its part, Marine Harvest spokesperson Ian Roberts says that Marine Harvest’s donations to community groups “have not, and will not, and will never, direct a recipient’s right to voice their opinions or their ability to speak freely,” adding that, “the Upper Island Riptide has advised Marine Harvest that its sponsorship decision and subsequent disagreement with one member’s family is an internal matter between the club and the family.”
“The company provides support to local community groups unconditionally, and does not influence or provide any direction whatsoever to sponsorship recipients,” Roberts says.
The U-15 girls team was still undefeated on the year at the time of the suspension of operations.