Maya Moore was an active legend. At the age of 29 she had already won two Olympic golds, two World Cups, four WNBA titles, a Euroleague ... She was still at the top when she slowed down and decided to drop everything. When Michael Jordan first retired in 1993 she did so to breathe after her father's murder and a growing problem with the game. Moore, to fight for the freedom of an innocent man.
It all happened in January 1997 in Missouri, Maya Moore's home region. A man heard a strange noise in her room. The previous month they had raided her house and the thieves had taken the cash that she kept in the closet. The man took the pistol from under the bed and went to pick up the phone to call the police. At that moment, the thief came out of the closet and shot him twice. One on the shoulder and one on the head
The man survived and pointed at the trial to Jonathan Irons, a 16-year-old black boy whom neighbors had seen in the area. Irons admitted that he had been in the neighborhood that day - he was selling marijuana over there - and yes, he was carrying a gun, but not the caliber the thief had used. Irons was prosecuted as an adult for having a record and, although there was no evidence against him - no fingerprints, no DNA - he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. All for an alleged confession in an interrogation which the police submitted without a lawyer, without a legal guardian, and of which there was no video or audio recording.
Maya Moore is deeply religious. In fact, they say that it is this same conviction that gave her the strength to park her career at the top and fight for a man she believed to be innocent. Moore learned about the case in 2007 through family members who were looking for a defense strategy. That same summer, before starting what would be one of the best careers in college basketball, she decided to visit Irons.
Fight for social justice
The case pushed Maya Moore to fight racism that still lingers in the United States police and judicial system. Her interest in the Irons case was out of the limelight until last year she spoke of her withdrawal in the 'New York Times', but she had previously shown signs of her commitment.
During the summer of 2016, in a space of three days in July, the police murdered two black men and a black sniper killed five officers during a protest against police brutality in Dallas. One of the civilians, Philando Castile, was shot in Minnesota after a traffic violation.
Moore, then a Minnesota Lynx player , led a team protest that also featured the Dallas police crest as a sign of support. Minnesota police, by the way, responded by refusing to work at Lyns games. It is the same body that has returned to the news for the murder of George Floyd.
Throughout these years, Maya Moore kept in touch with and visits to the prison, and hired a team of luxury defense attorneys to work on her case. The only physical evidence was a fingerprint that did not belong to Irons and in March a judge overturned the 50-year sentence on the grounds that the case was "very weak."
Finally, this week the prosecutor has decided not to ask for a repeat of the trial and, after 22 years, Jonathan Irons has been released. Maya Moore was waiting at the door.
Will Maya Moore return?
The street leading to the Jefferson City maximum security prison is called 'No More Victims'. It is a well-deserved tribute to the victims of the men who are locked up there, but in the case of Irons it has caused a paradox. The victim was also him.
And Moore? Moore doesn't know if his path ends here. At 31, he could still resume a legendary career, but says he has no plans yet. In January, she announced that she would not be playing this year either and, according to the New York Times, she has been serving as a member of the evangelical church in Atlanta.
In a year in which players like Natasha Cloud , reigning WNBA champion, or Renee Montgomery, have announced that they will not play this season to help in the fight for social justice either, perhaps the path of Maya Moore is still off the track.
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