Maya Moore can now celebrate perhaps her greatest victory, and not with UConn or the Minnesota Lynx

Photo: New York Times/Julia Hansen

By Joel Alderman

Arguably one of the greatest women’s basketball players of this or any time, Maya Moore has played a major role away from a playing court but in a court of law. In so doing, she made a valuable contribution to human rights and criminal justice. It could be said it overshadowed leading the University of Connecticut to two consecutive NCAA championships and in becoming a five-time All-Star and member of four WNBA title winners with the Minnesota Lynx.

Moore had taken a leave of absence as a pro, before the league was put on hold due to the spread of the coronavirus, and devoted her time, efforts and resources to campaign for the release of Jonathan Irons from Missouri’s Jefferson City Correctional Center. It finally happened on July 1st. Moore posted an Instagram video with the caption “FREEDOM,” picturing the moments Irons walked out a free man:

Her campaign for Irons

The 31-year old Moore firmly believed that Irons had been unjustly found guilty of burglary and assault with a weapon. He was a 16-year-old black youth when he was tried as an adult and an all-white jury convicted him.

Irons, who is from O’Fallon, a St. Louis suburb, served about 22 years of a 50-year prison sentence that was handed down in 1998. This even though neither his DNA nor fingerprints were found at the scene, and a gun was never recovered (ESPN).

His case was brought back to court in March, and Judge Daniel Green subsequently overturned the conviction based on the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence and a fingerprint from the scene that didn’t belong to either Irons or the person who there (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

How a mission of freedom started

Moore, a devout Christian, was born in Jefferson City (technically known City of Jefferson) and the capital of Missouri. She met Irons in 2007 through a prison ministry and before entering UConn. She then made it a mission to see him freed from prison.

Moore was among those who greeted Irons when he left the prison last week. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release.

Lynx coach overwhelmed

Cheryl Reeve, coach and general manager of the Lynx, said “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.”

The story was told on “Good Morning America”

The day following Irons’ release Maya Moore said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “I’d been standing, and we’d been standing for so long; and it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief. It was kind of a worshipful moment, just dropping to my knees and just being so thankful that we made it.”

And Irons, thanking Moore and her family said in the video, “I feel like I can live life now. I’m free, I’m blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence.”

Perhaps reflecting on what is going on today, he said he wants to be “a part of the rebuilding process from where we’re at right now, because there’s so much greater coming on the horizon, and I see it — even in the darkness, I was able to see it — and I know we’re going. We shouldn’t give up; we should keep going.”


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