Maya Moore on Fighting for Love and Justice

When we conducted our interview over Zoom in April, as Moore, now 32, and Irons, 41, settled into their new house in Georgia, the warmth of their home and their marriage felt tangible even through a screen. “That’s my best friend, my bestie,” Irons says, smiling at his wife.

Moore began speaking out about Irons’s case in 2016. “I had no real understanding of the reality of prison or criminal justice until I heard about Jonathan’s story as an 18-year-old,” she says. As her list of athletic accomplishments grew, so did her friendship with Irons and her understanding of his case. “My whole motivation for learning about criminal justice reform came from my relationship with Jonathan and knowing him and caring about him as a person. You want to help. And so I utilized my resources in the sports world, which connected me to people who’ve been in this space for a long time, and I got educated,” she says. She learned that though the U.S. makes up just 5% of the world’s population, we’re responsible for nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners (“It’s just embarrassing,” Moore says) and founded Win With Justice, a social action campaign designed to advocate for prosecutorial reform.

At the same time, Moore’s game was changing the face of women’s sports. As a six-time WNBA All-Star, with four WNBA championships and two Olympic golds to her name, she earned rightful comparisons to Michael Jordan. Professional athletes, as Moore knows deeply, have power, and so she used her platform to help ignite the modern era of activism the WNBA is so well acknowledged for today. “I understand people look to sports to relax and escape the realities of life. But there’s suffering going on around us. And if I see something and I don’t do something or say something, I am becoming less human,” Moore says.

So while it might not have been all that surprising, it was significant when she announced in 2019 that at the age of 29, she was stepping away from the legacy she’d built in basketball to focus on “living out my purpose.”

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty ImagesTim Clayton – Corbis

“It’d be hard for me to talk about this without acknowledging I am trying to follow the Lord and where I feel like I’m supposed to put my presence. That’s not always easy or understandable,” she says. Faith is at the core of Moore’s story—it’s what makes her tick. It guides the decisions that have defined her life. So it’s impossible to understand what would drive the champion of a generation to walk away from her sport at the peak of a Hall of Fame career to help a family friend without understanding her unshakable faith in God and the desire to live up to her calling. “That helps me be more authentic,” she says. “It’s hard for me to explain my path without laying that foundation.”

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