Maya Moore has extended her basketball hiatus for an important cause.
The WNBA star confirmed her decision to the New York Times this week, stating she will shelve her professional career for a second straight season in the interest of criminal justice reform. Moore told the outlet she will dedicate her time advocating for the release of Jonathan Irons—a Missouri inmate whom she believes was wrongfully convicted.
"I'm in a really good place right now with my life, and I don't want to change anything," the Minnesota Lynx small forward explained to the Times. "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."
According to the Times, Irons was only 16 when he was arrested in connection to a non-fatal shooting. The now-39-year-old black man was accused of shooting a homeowner in the head during a burglary, and was sentenced to 50-years behind bars despite the lack of evidence tying him to the crime.
Per the Times:
The homeowner, who was shot in the head during the assault, testified that Irons was the perpetrator, but there were no corroborating witnesses, fingerprints, footprints, DNA or blood evidence to connect Irons to the crime. Prosecutors said Irons admitted to a police officer that he broke into the victim’s home, a claim Irons and his lawyers have steadfastly denied. The officer had interrogated Irons alone and did not record the conversation.
Moore said she met Irons in 2007 and has continued to fight on his behalf ever since—sharing his story on national platforms and even cover the costs for his defense.POST CONTINUES BELOW
Though Moore's absence is a big loss for the Minnesota Lynx, head coach Cheryl Reeve says she fully supports the athlete's decision.
"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," Reeve said in a statement. "We are proud of the ways that Maya is advocating for justice and using her platform to impact social change."
Moore, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, also withdrew her name from Tokyo Olympic consideration. But she insists she isn't leaving the game for good.
"I don’t feel like this is the right time for me to retire," she said. "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. 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."