As a young girl, Maya Moore dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player. But after conquering the sport as an adult, and abandoning that dream in order to pursue criminal justice reform, another dream of hers has now become a reality.
ESPN reports that after putting her WNBA career on pause in 2019 in order to help Jonathan Irons, who was wrongly convicted for burglary and assault with a weapon in 1998, Moore was on hand Wednesday when he was finally released from prison after serving 22 years.
“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons said in a video that Moore posted on Instagram, capturing his first taste of freedom. “I’m free, I’m blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence.”
Moore was instrumental in Irons’ convictions being vacated back in March. And now that he’s free, she’s overcome with a sense of relief.
“My rest is gonna start now,” she said Thursday on Good Morning America. “I haven’t really been able to have the fullness of the rest that I wanted. And so I’m like, ‘OK guys, now is the time to take a break.’ So I’m looking forward to some rest and then seeing what the future holds, maybe around the same time next spring.”
Moore learned of Irons’ ordeal prior to her freshman year at UConn. Her godfather, Reggie Williams, was reviewing legal documents pertaining to Irons’ case and the future WNBA star would eventually make it her mission to ensure his freedom. But that freedom came at a steep cost: in order to do so, Moore sacrificed the most decorated career in the history of the WNBA; in which she was named a six-time WNBA All-Star, made All-WNBA First Team five times, was the WNBA MVP in 2014 and was a four-time WNBA champion.
Could you imagine Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls in his prime to fight for criminal justice reform?
“I was overwhelmed seeing Maya watch Jonathan Irons walk out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man,” Minnesota Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said in a statement. “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.”
Respect due to Maya Moore, and whether she ever returns to the court or not, we know that her future will be paved in righteous intentions.