By: Isaiah Robinson
Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore will sit out for another WNBA season and remove herself from the 2020 Olympics to focus on releasing a Missouri inmate from prison as she believes in his innocence, she told The New York Times.
Jonathan Irons, 39, is serving a 50-year prison sentence for a conviction of burglary and assault with a weapon of a man in his home. He was 16 at the time of the incident.
The homeowner testified that Irons was the person who assaulted him, but Irons’ lawyers say there was no evidence (witnesses, fingerprints, footprints, DNA) to verify that their client committed the crime.
Irons, an African American who was living in poverty, was tried as an adult, and the all-white jury found him guilty.
Moore met Irons in 2017 when she visited the Jefferson City Correctional Center, where he is an inmate.
“I’m in a really good place right now with my life, and I don’t want to change anything,” Moore told the Times in a telephone interview Wednesday. “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. And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.”
Moore surprised the women’s basketball world last winter by announcing that she was taking a season off to support Irons as he appealed his conviction and now, her decision to take a second year off is a blow to the women’s league.
The Lynx star’s collection of Olympic gold medals from the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, W.N.B.A. titles and her leadership of two undefeated championship teams at the University of Connecticut qualify her as one of the greatest winners that basketball has ever known.
Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said Wednesday in a statement issued by the club that the Lynx have “been in frequent contact” with Moore over the past year and praised her “fully engaged” effort in criminal justice reform and ministry.
The United States national team also said it supports Moore’s decision.
“We are going to miss Maya tremendously, but we also respect her decision,” Carol Callan, director of the U.S. national team, said, according to the newspaper. “A player of Maya’s ability does not walk away from the gym lightly. Everyone feels it. The thing that makes her so special is her approach, her dedication, which has always been contagious for our team. We know how devoted she is to what she believes in, and that what she is doing is remarkable.”