Maya Moore enjoying time away from basketball, focusing on social-justice work

Ryan Young
Maya Moore isn't thinking about a return to basketball just yet. She's enjoying her time away from the game, and working to draw attention to an important issue in the United States.
Maya Moore isn't thinking about a return to basketball just yet. She's enjoying her time away from the game, and working to draw attention to an important issue in the United States. (Tim Clayton/Getty Images)

Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore shocked the basketball world earlier this year when she announced that she was going to sit out the 2019 WNBA season.

The four-time WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist made the announcement in a piece for The Player’s Tribune, stating that she planned to focus on her family and “investing my time in some ministry dreams that have been stirring in my heart for many years.”

Now, more than six months after her announcement, Moore’s attention hasn’t shifted back to the game.

“Definitely not thinking about it right now,” Moore said, via the Associated Press. “There’s so much on my plate to prioritize. When I released the Player’s Tribune article, I said I wanted to take a full year. I won’t be a pro basketball player for a year. Maybe sometime this spring I’ll figure out what’s next. For now, I’m trying to be in the moment. It’s a wild journey I’m on.”

Working to overturn a conviction

While she has done quite a bit throughout her time away from the WNBA, Moore has been hard at work to help a family friend overturn a 50-year prison sentence.

Jonathan Irons was found guilty in 1998 of burglary and assault with a deadly weapon in Jefferson City, Missouri. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Moore, who grew up in Jefferson City before moving to the Atlanta area, is confident that Irons is innocent — and detailed her battle to overturn his conviction in a piece in the New York Times earlier this year. Irons, who was just 16 years old when the crime was committed, was convicted by an all-white jury despite no blood evidence, footprints or fingerprints tying him to the crime, per the Times.

Irons had been seen with a gun in the neighborhood on the night of the burglary and was arrested one week later. He allegedly told a detective working on the case that he had broken into the home, though he’s denied making that confession. Yet, according to the Times, Irons was questioned without a lawyer or a guardian and without other officers in the room. The detective was not cross-examined during the trial because he was ill, and he has since died.

With Moore’s help, a judge has reopened Irons’ case. He is scheduled for a hearing next month, according to the Associated Press.

“I’ve known Jonathan for over a decade, and I’m fighting to make sure his case gets a fair review. I’m trying to call attention to the prosecutorial misconduct that I believe resulted in his being wrongfully sent to prison for 50 years as a teenager,” Moore said, via the Associated Press. “This hearing will hopefully give us a perfect opportunity to show why this conviction lacks integrity for so many different reasons.”

Moore has also launched “Win With Justice,” a social action campaign aimed at calling “attention to the power wielded by prosecutors and their obligation to use it responsibly,” per the Associated Press.

Though she may return to the court eventually, Moore is enjoying her time away from the game. Not only is she spending more time with her mom and helping her ministry in Atlanta, but Moore is calling attention to a major pattern of injustice in the United States — and hopes that Irons’ case can help raise awareness across the country.

“Hopefully, this will educate people to do something when they feel doomed and get outraged,” Moore said, via the Associated Press. “While it’s hard for people to grasp the 10,000 people who are wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year, Jonathan’s case helps bring it down for people to connect with. You can connect with one man’s story.”

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