Maya Moore’s career as an athlete, both at the collegiate and professional level, has been full of victories. Yesterday she achieved another win with much bigger meaning when Jonathan Irons was released from prison.
Moore became acquainted with Irons about ten years ago through her extended family’s involvement in a prison ministry group. As she learned about Irons’ case, she wanted to do something to help. In 2019, she stepped away from basketball to focus on that fight for justice.
“I wanted to shift my priorities, to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt were mattering more than being a professional athlete,” Moore told Good Morning America on Thursday morning.
Her commitment to fighting for Justice for Irons ended in another victory. The ruling in Irons’ case was overturned in March and after a series of appeals from the state and he was released on Wednesday after being incarcerated for 23 years.
Moore shared the emotional moment of Irons’ release Wednesday afternoon.
Maya Moore gave up her 2019 WNBA season to help Jonathan Irons overturn his conviction on charges of burglary and assault.— ESPN (@espn) July 2, 2020
Today, he was freed from prison. (via @mooremaya) pic.twitter.com/8mnEPgW8WA
Cheryl Reeve, the Minnesota Lynx head coach with whom Moore has won four WNBA championships with, was moved by the moment.
“Maya Moore got to celebrate another championship yesterday and none of us who have been blessed to have Maya in our lives are surprised. I cannot imagine, however, what this one must feel like. I was overwhelmed seeing Maya watch Jonathan Irons walk out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man,” Reeve said in a release. “For the last few years we watched as she gracefully committed herself to Jonathan’s case, and as she has done so often on the basketball court, put the Irons team on her back. I am overcome with joy that Maya and all involved were able to reach their goal of Jonathan’s exoneration.”
While Moore has been victorious in this particular battle, the larger issue of justice and equality in the criminal justice system still looms. Reeve also hit on this in her statement congratulating Moore.
“I also can’t help but feel a great deal of anger. Maya Moore should never have had to leave her profession to engage in the fight against the two-tiered criminal justice system that over polices, wrongfully convicts, and over sentences black and brown communities. The criminal justice system in America is so far from fair and equal and it angers me that Maya has had to sacrifice so much to overcome this racially disparate system,” Reeve said.
As Maya has achieved this victory, several WNBA players are also sitting out the 2020 season, including Moore’s fellow former Huskies, Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes (both of the Atlanta Dream), to focus on social justice issues.
“People don’t want to watch a fixed game, they want to watch a fair game. So that’s all we’re asking for, in our justice system let’s be fair. Let’s make it equal for every person,” Moore said the broader fight.
As for what’s next for Maya Moore on or off the court, she noted, “I just want to live in the moment, and honestly my rest is going to start now.”
Moore will not be heading to the WNBA bubble to play this season, and for now has given no definitive answer on whether we will see her back on the court in 2021.
Watch Moore’s full interview on Good Morning America here:
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: @WNBA star @MooreMaya put her basketball career on hold to help free Jonathan Irons, who was wrongly convicted of burglary and assault more than two decades ago. @RobinRobertshttps://t.co/r7NiWSW2Bh pic.twitter.com/uyIqLLNUS2— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 2, 2020