By Morgan Clark
Growing up I was a big college basketball fan. I liked men and women basketball. I would sit and watch the ball games every chance I got with both of my parents. There were quite of few players and teams who left an impression on me, but one of the most impactful ones was Maya Moore, who played for the University of Connecticut. Moore was a powerhouse to watch on the court in her college years. Watching her break records at her school, and seeing her win two championships back to back, was an amazing experience! She was arguably one the best basketball players of her time. She was a hero that young basketball players like me looked up to. I am not into basketball as much as I was years ago, and because of that I hadn’t really been following along as closely. So, one could imagine my shock when I learned that Maya Moore willingly sat out for two seasons of her professional basketball career, after winning two Olympic gold medals and many other awards! This is a woman who lives and breathes basketball, who was also still in her prime! But then I discovered her reason and gained a whole new-found respect for her.
Maya visited the City Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Missouri in 2007. There she met Jonathan Irons. Jonathan is a an African-American man who she believed was wrongfully convicted for a crime. At 18, Irons was prosecuted for burglary and assault. Even though there was no DNA, footprints, fingerprints, blood or any other evidence to place him at the crime, he was still sentenced to 50 years in prison. Maya believed this to be a blasphemous injustice and in 2019, Maya announced her hold on her career to help Jonathan. It took a lot of time but finally in July 2, 2020 Jonathan Irons walked out of prison a free man, and guess who was out there waiting for him…Maya Moore.
Maya has since gone on to become a prominent activist in her community. She even has started a website called Win with Justice. There one can find information on wrongful conviction, current news and legislation, and how people can get involved in their own community. Now, even though she has taken a lot of time off from basketball, and become a huge player on the team of activism, she has not given up on her love for the sport. She claims she is in no way ready for retirement from the WMBA. The Olympic medalist will return to the court.
As I said before, young Morgan considered Maya Moore a hero, because of her athleticism and her domination on the court. But adult Morgan considers her a hero because her activism. For her to take two years off from her career and passion, to help Jonathan, is nothing but noble. Using her platform and resource to help a man who was wrongful convicted, and to start a movement to help others like Jonathan, is something I want to see during this time of racial injustices. I hope that she can set an example for many other celebrities who have the platform, income, and resources to help those who need it most.