In the prime of her career, Maya Moore put everything on hold to campaign against the incarceration of Jonathan Irons, a man who had been convicted to a 50-year sentence.
For the avoidance of doubt about how high-flying Moore was prior to 2019, it is important to refer to the tale of her tape.
In 2011, she was the number one draft pick for Minnesota Lynx and she went on to win the WNBA rookie of that year. In 2013, 2015 and 2017, she won the championship, picking up the personal accolades of finals MVP in 2013 and season MVP in 2014.
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Moore was a member of the US teams that won the world championships in 2010 and 2014 as well as the gold-winning teams of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
She only turned 31 in June.
What she did to bring attention to Irons’ imprisonment is purely labor of love. The two had met at a prison ministry in 1998 when Moore was only nine and Irons, a teenager, had been convicted on charges of burglary and assault.
Even when opportunities came her way and she rose to become one of the best players of all time, Moore believed she owed it to herself to impact the life of Irons.
Irons’ punishment was overturned in March but at the beginning of the year, Moore announced that she was ready to sit out another season in pursuance of Irons’ release.
In January she said: “When we take time to stand up for people, and to shine a light in a dark place, not everybody is going to like it. When it costs your comfort or maybe something that you just want to kind of check out and enjoy, I get that.”
She was mindful of her platform, saying “Entertainment is a place where you want to relax and not have to think about the cares of the world, but we are in the world and the world is broken.”
When Irons’ conviction was overturned in March, he said about Moore: “She saved my life. I would not have this chance if not for her and her wonderful family. She saved my life and I cannot say it better than that.”
Now that he is out of prison, Irons, now 40, believes he “can live life now”. He remains grateful to Moore for never giving up on him.
Moore herself thanked “God it’s over” in an Instagram video on Wednesday. Her humanitarian commitment has been successful and she was ready to move on.
But the story marries two dimensions of human society. One involves an individual’s commitment to a belief and the other is a justice system that does not offer a chance redemption for some people.
While Moore’s perseverance can inspire many, it also brought to light the need for further conversation about an age-old problem. But daring to do any of these requires an understanding of the magnitude of the sacrifice.
As Moore herself said in January, “…hats off to people that sacrifice, that pay a cost of a platform, of a job, of money to stand up for something greater than yourselves and at the end of the day, if we remember we’re human beings first, I think it’ll make it a little less controversial.”