Maya Moore Takes a Break From Basketball to Help Reform the Justice System

Moore is taking a sabbatical from the Minnesota Lynx this year

Maya Moore
Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx stands on the court.
Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Maya Moore is one of the nation’s top basketball players: she’s won the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player award and helped the Minnesota Lynx to 4 championships during her time with the team. But this year, Moore is taking a break from basketball to take on an even more challenging task.

Moore is currently working to free Jonathan Irons, a man currently serving a 50-year prison sentence — a man who Moore, and many others, believe was wrongfully convicted.

The New York Times has an in-depth look at Moore’s endeavor to help address what she believes to be a flaw in the justice system. Moore’s interest in the case has been present for a large amount of her life: her cousins and godfather encountered Irons through a prison ministry, and Moore first learned of his case when she was 18.

The New York Times summarized the case — and why Irons’s conviction looks unjust to many who have spent time examining it. 

Irons was a poor African-American teenager who had been tried as an adult and convicted by an all-white jury. The crime was violent and involved a gun, but no weapon was found. No blood evidence, no footprints and no fingerprints tied Irons to the crime.

Whether or not Irons’s case will be reopened remains to be seen; currently, his legal team is working to get his case re-opened, with financial support from Moore. She also appeared at preliminary hearings and routinely visits Irons in prison in Jefferson City, MO, the city where she was born. But her charity isn’t exclusive to Irons — the Times mentions that she’s been speaking out about criminal justice reform and volunteering at a community center in a former crackhouse in Atlanta.

Moore is uncertain about her future. Of her time away from the game, she says she is answering a call from God, and leading a simpler life.

Whether or not she returns to basketball remains to be seen. But her efforts as an advocate for reform, a constant for so much of her life, show no signs of abating.

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