Maya Moore is considered a legend in the WNBA, having won four WNBA titles and two gold medals during her eight-year career. Aside from being a world-class athlete, she's also become a tenacious activist for criminal justice reform.
Moore, who is under contract with the Minnesota Lynx, is opting out of her second straight season to bring awareness to and fight for the release of Jonathan Irons, reports Sports Illustrated. She believes Irons was wrongly convicted.
The announcement means that she is no longer in contention for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Irons, 39, was 16 years old when he was accused of breaking into a St. Louis home and shooting the homeowner in the head during a burglary. The victim testified that Irons was the culprit, but there were no witnesses, fingerprints, footprints, DNA nor blood evidence to connect Irons to the crime.
Prosecutors allege Irons confessed to police that he broke into the victim’s home, but Irons and his lawyers have denied that claim. Further, the officer who interrogated Irons did so alone and did not record the conversation, reports The New York Times.
Irons was tried as an adult and convicted by an all-white jury to serve a 50-year sentence. Moore, an evangelical Christian, believes that he is innocent.
She shocked the WNBA last year when she decided to step down at only 29, while still in her prime. Moore’s Olympic gold medals from 2012 and 2016, NBA titles and leadership of two undefeated championship teams at UConn classify her as one of the best to do it in basketball history. But the grind of being an underpaid WNBA employee and playing year-round to supplement her income had worn her down. (It was just last week that the WNBA announced that its players will finally get a respectable bag, as Blavity previously reported.)
Moore rarely had time away from competition since her teens.
“I’m in a really good place right now with my life, and I don’t want to change anything,” the 30-year-old said.
“Basketball has not been foremost in my mind. I’ve been able to rest, and connect with people around me, actually be in their presence after all of these years on the road," she said. "And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.”
Moore has no regrets about taking time off to advocate for her faith and what she believes in but also acknowledges she's not ready to put her ball shoes aways just yet.
“I don’t feel like this is the right time for me to retire. Retirement is something that is a big deal and there is a right way to do it well, and this is not the time for me.”
That said, she's grateful and satisfied with her accomplishments and her time on the hardwood.
“I have had such a unique experience in the game. I got to experience the best of my craft, and I did that multiple times. There is nothing more I wish I could experience.”
Minnesota Lynx management has publicly thrown their support behind Moore's efforts.
“Over the last year we have been in frequent contact with Maya around the great work in criminal justice reform and ministry in which she is fully engaged. We are proud of the ways that Maya is advocating for justice and using her platform to impact social change,” read a statement from Minnesota Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve.