‘Arrogant’ sponsor accused of kicking teen out of soccer team facing consumer backlash

A multinational aquaculture corporation is facing a consumer backlash after being accused of forcing a soccer club it sponsors in northern Vancouver Island to kick a 14-year-old girl off the team and telling her to find different sport after she refused to stop criticizing the practice of salmon farming .

The Upper Island Riptide club announced Thursday that it has “parted ways” with goalkeeper Freyja Reed after the teen from Comox, BC refused to stop criticizing the activities of the club’s sponsor Marine Harvest, the largest open-net fish farm operator in the province.

The Norwegian-owned corporation expressed ‘disappointment’ that one out of the thousands players sponsored by the company was creating a fuss, but added that there was a way for Freyja and her mother Anissa Reed to avoid being muzzled.

“You can find another program to play in or choose to do a different sport,” Marine Harvest spokesman Ian Roberts told CBC.

But the company is now struggling to repair the brand’s reputation after Canadians outraged by the corporation’s heavy-handed actions have left a string of negative comments and low ratings on the Marine Harvest Facebook page.

“I do not eat farmed salmon. Silencing a 14 year old who just wants to play soccer is just wrong,” Suzanne Bolwell wrote. “I f you people want to sponsor community activities it should not come with strings attached.”

“Way to trample on the hopes and dreams of children,” Ryan Bee wrote. “Your crass censorship only proves that your products and production methods are as bad for the environment as critics say.”

“Bullying a 14 year old girl huh?” Lu Bassett wrote. “You need to offer her an unequivocal apology, or go bankrupt. I prefer the latter, because I don’t think you have the moral integrity to do the former.”

“Marine Harvest’s donations to community groups have not, and will not, and will never, restrict a recipient’s right to voice their opinions or their ability to speak freely,” Marine Harvest stated in a press release. “Our goal in providing support to groups like the Upper Island Riptide has always been for the children in our community to have a positive environment to play and learn.”

The Marine Harvest’s PR strategy has done little to diffuse consumers’ anger towards the company.

“When a corporation forces a soccer club to choose between freedom of expression and the money a corporation donates in order to further their own agenda,” Chris Williams wrote. “It makes many consumers choose sides.”

“What you have just done is disenfranchised a large group of people,” Williams added. “Now while you may deem this an acceptable loss. You will surely misstep again. Especially since your Public Relations is clearly not very effective.”

While the incident is turning out to be a disaster in public relations for Marine Harvest, there may be happy ending for Freyja, with local fisherman coming to the rescue of the teen.

The United Fishermen, Allied Workers Union, and many individual fishermen are setting up a trust fund so Freyja could continue playing soccer without being beholden to sponsors.

“Thanks for standing up for your beliefs,” Brian Wadhams of Vancouver, BC wrote on a Facebook page setup to support the teen. “I also am a fisher, and understand the issues with fish farms, and totally opposed to open net fish farms. Keep up the good work, never let funding get in the way of what you believe in.”

18 Responses to ‘Arrogant’ sponsor accused of kicking teen out of soccer team facing consumer backlash

  1. Kevin says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the article but you need to proofread. In the first paragraph, you claim that the girl was ousted for refusing to criticize farmed fishing. In the next paragraph, you correctly state that she was ousted for refusing to STOP her criticism, which makes much more sense.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually it does say because she refused to stop criticizing, read again.

    • canuckgirl56 says:

      “after she refused to stop criticizing the practice of salmon farming.” (The opening paragraph).
      Kevin you are incorrect. Both paragraphs are correct. Perhaps you should re-read the article.

    • StraightShooter says:

      I agree that they need to proofread, but for a different reason. The article states the following…

      “A multinational aquaculture corporation is facing a consumer backlash after being accused of forcing a soccer club it sponsors in northern Vancouver Island to kick a 14-year-old girl…”

      I’m pretty no one forced the club to kick the girl. That would be assault.

      • Editor says:

        Thank you, StraightShooter, for bringing this to our attention. The error has been fixed. We do apologize for the inconvenience.

      • Anonymous says:

        Check your own editing everyone. Auto correct, stay out of this!

      • Anonymous says:

        Why do people like you take away from the point of the post just to suggest how smart you think you are? You only succeed in deflecting away from the issue at hand to bolster your ego.

    • Editor says:

      Thank you, Kevin, for bringing this to our attention. The error has been fixed. We do apologize for the inconvenience.

  2. David Price says:

    If Norway wants to fish farm let them do it at home. The way fish farming is done is harmful to wild fish habitat! These arrogant jerks have way too much control of our Provincial Government who sees only profits and how much private companies will put in their election coffers!

  3. Liz mackenzie says:

    Good work Freija for taking a stand for something you believe in strongly. We, as as adults should be proud of our younger generation coming up
    , I am!

  4. Fritz says:

    Just let her play, in spite of her opinion. Otherwise funding is contingent on idealogical conformance which renders the funding manipulative.

  5. just the truth says:

    Here’s a girl playing elite soccer with dreams of a scholarship and university, and a ‘team steering committee’ with absolutely no ‘team spirit’! Changing the name of the team as if it were the Marine Harvest employees’ team instead of 14 and 15 year old girls, making them walking advertisements and selling their ‘candied toxic salmon’ at fundraisers is more than a bit over the top! It actually suggests some conflict of interest when at least one coach and god knows how many others are upper management and employees of Marine Harvest!

  6. Bjorn Christensen says:

    We are sharing this in Norway right now. We are many who dislike what marine Harvest are doing to the sea and our health. What they are doing to this young soccerplayer are not the way to do it at all

  7. Pete says:

    Article editing notwithstanding (misdirection is SO easy on the internet), it’s good you’re publicizing this. Thanks.
    You’d think the Norewegians would be a little less ignorant and arrogant. and a little more enlightened than the Ayn Rand version of U.S. style right wing vicious commerce.
    I guess not. Corporate decency doesn’t have a country to call it’s own.

  8. alex says:

    Corporate subjugation at its finest !! A company attacking (ousting from a community sport ) a child for exercising her freedom of speech rights is criminal and should be challenged and prosecuted on a federal level!

  9. Ann-Marie says:

    Reading the company’s statement about their reasons for sponsoring the team implies that they are not interested in advertising their products,but that they just want to support youth in the community. So why do they have their name on the jerseys, make the girls sell their fake salmon for fundraisers, and plan team field trips to the fish farms? Something fishy going on here! (No pun intended.) One important point in this whole issue that is not mentioned, is that Freyja was already on the team before it was spomsored by Marine Harvest. So those people who are saying that she should have just not joined the team and said nothing, are supporting the idea that a sponsor has the power to force a player to leave the team or lose her freedom of speech! This is totally unacceptable! Don’t give up, Freyja! You are totally justified in not wanting to support Marine Harvest!

  10. Shirley A says:

    I am one about standing up for my beliefs and rights. This is corporate bullying. And the people who kicked her out of soccer shouldn’t be running an organization. Sponsorship does not come with duties. It’s an agreement to advertise the business…. not sell the product or attend jamborees or put our kids on the front line of such a hot topic. FARMED FISH IS A HOT TOPIC in BC. Shame on Marine Harvest for asking so much from an organization or organizations asking for so much. There clearly was a large amount of money exchanged for the soccer club to react the way hey did. Shame on them too. What ever happened to good ol sponsorship with no strings or duties attached. Greed.

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