Thanks to the help of Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore and others, a Missouri man has been freed from prison after more than 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
On Wednesday, Moore, along with family and friends of Jonathan Irons, saw the now 40-year-old man, who was originally sentenced to 50 years in prison, take his first steps as a free man in over two decades when he was released from the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Missouri.
The release of Irons comes months after a Missouri judge vacated Irons’ guilty verdict for burglary and assault with a weapon in 1997, a case Moore and others have been very public about and have spent endless time over the last few years trying to overturn.
“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons said following his release, according to the New York Times. “I thank everybody who supported me — Maya and her family.”
Moore, who stepped away from the basketball court prior to the start of the 2019 WNBA season to focus on Irons’ case and other social justice issues, was present to welcome Irons out of prison on Wednesday and posted the moment on her Instagram page.
As Irons stepped out of the correctional center for the first time as a free man, Moore clapped and later dropped to her knees before hugging and greeting a friend who she met through prison ministry in 2007 and has since formed a close bond.
“In that moment, I felt like I could rest. I’ve been standing and we’ve been standing for so long and it was an unplanned moment where I felt relief. We made it,” Moore said Thursday in an interview on Good Morning America. “When I stepped away (from basketball) two springs ago, I just wanted to shift my priorities to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt mattered more than being a professional athlete. This is obviously one of the biggest and direct results of that.”
For a player who has seen endless success on the basketball court and is arguably one of the greatest players to step on the floor, this victory for Moore and Irons is one of the biggest and most rewarding victories of her life and career.
“On behalf of the Lynx organization, we are so proud of Maya for earning the biggest win of her career. I am sure that she was voted MVP of this championship, too,” Lynx head coach and general manger Cheryl Reeve said in a statement on Thursday. “This time there is no hardware to take home to the trophy case, just a wrongfully convicted black man walking free.”
Prior to the start of the 2020 WNBA season, which is scheduled to begin in Bradenton, Fla. in July, Moore announced she would sit out the season for a second straight year to focus on issues such as this one, which were more important to her at the present time.
Earlier this offseason, Reeve said the Lynx will continue to support Moore and expect to maintain dialogue with her surrounding a potential return to the team perhaps as soon as 2021, adding the organization wants to allow her time to rest after putting so much time and effort into the Irons case over the years.
What this positive outcome for both Irons and Moore ultimately means as far as the WNBA star’s return to basketball has yet to be determined. But right now, that’s not the most important thing for Moore as she has achieved perhaps the biggest victory of her life this week.
“My rest is going to start now. I haven’t really been able to have the fullness of the rest that I wanted,” Moore said Thursday on Good Morning America. “And so I’m like, ‘OK guys, now is the time to take a break.’ I’m looking forward to some rest and then seeing what the future holds, maybe around the same time next spring.”