Minnesota Lynx star and four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore is widely considered one of the most elite players in the game. Which makes her decision to sit out for a second season all the more noteworthy.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Moore will continue her sabbatical from the sport to focus on helping prisoner Johnathan Irons. In addition to not playing in the 2020 season, she has also decided to not pursue playing in this year’s Olympic games. Moore met Irons in 2017 while visiting the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Missouri. After hearing his story, Moore believed Irons was wrongfully convicted and sat out last season to support him while he appealed his conviction.
Irons, a 39-year-old black man who was born into abject poverty was arrested when he only 16 years old. He is currently serving a 50-year sentence after being convicted of burglary and assaulting a homeowner with a gun. The homeowner was shot in the head during the assault and testified that Irons was the one who did it. Irons was found guilty and tried as an adult by an all-white jury despite the fact there were no other witnesses, fingerprints, DNA or any real evidence that could substantially prove Irons committed the crime.
In October, Judge Daniel Green would consider Irons’s appeal despite the protests of state prosecutors. Moore was in the courtroom as Green heard six hours of testimony. New expert testimony is being considered and tests have been ordered on a pair of fingerprints from the crime scene that matched neither Irons nor the homeowner. More court dates are to be expected in the upcoming months.
In addition to wanting to support Irons through his appeals process, Moore took time off from the WNBA to focus on self-care. She cites the grueling yearlong schedule that the top women in the game have to face as another reason she decided to step back. Many women in the WNBA have to play in leagues around the world to supplement their base salary, though there is a hope that a new collective bargaining agreement will help alleviate their schedule.
Honestly, it’s really cool to see an athlete in their prime take some time off not to only focus on themselves but to help someone else in need as well. The league will certainly welcome Moore back with open arms when she decides to return and hopefully the new agreement means she’ll have a less aggressive schedule going forward. I truly hope her efforts in helping Irons will result in him getting a fair trial and most importantly, his freedom.