WNBA star Maya Moore has spoken of her “relief” after successfully helping a man overturn his conviction when he he served 22 years in prison.
Jonathan Irons had been handed a 50-year sentence for burglary and assaulting a homeowner with a gun but the decision was overturned in March and he walked free Wednesday.
Moore, who sat out an entire season to help overturn the conviction, was one of the first to embrace him following his release.
In an appearance alongside Irons on ABC’s Good Morning America, Moore said she finally felt like she could rest after “standing for so long.”
“It was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief and it was kind of a worshipful moment,” she said Thursday, speaking of the moment Irons was released.
“Just dropping to my knees and being so thankful that we made it.”
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‘I do forgive him’
Moore, who had met Irons in 1998 in a prison ministry, is considered one of the greatest women’s basketball players but has announced she will skip a second WNBA season to focus on criminal justice reform.
“When I stepped away [from the court] two springs ago, I really wanted to shift my priorities to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt were mattering more than being a professional athlete,” she added.
“So this is obviously one of the biggest and most direct results of that.”
After serving 22 years in prison, Irons said he did not blame his accuser in any way and wants to focus his time on helping others in the same position as he was.
“I believe at some point, if not already, he’s going to be hit with a lot of guilt and I want to let him know that he has a safe place to rest because I do forgive him,” he said.
“There’s a lot to adjust to out here and I’m going to take it slow and I’m surrounded by people I know who love me and have my best interest in mind.
“I’ll listen to them and study and learn all I can. When I get the time and opportunity and the resources and the provision, I want to be able to reach back and help other people.”
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‘A wrongfully convicted black man walking free’
Selected by the Minnesota Lynx as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Moore won her first WNBA title in her debut season. She added further titles in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve congratulated Moore on winning yet another “championship” but says she is angry that the superstar had to sacrifice so much to tackle the justice system.
“I was overwhelmed seeing Maya watch Jonathan Irons walk out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man,” Reeve told the Lynx website.
“For the last few years we watched as she gracefully committed herself to Jonathan’s case, and as she has done so often on the basketball court, put the Irons team on her back.
“I am overcome with joy that Maya and all involved were able to reach their goal of Jonathan’s exoneration.”
Reeve added: “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. This time there is no hardware to take home to the trophy case, just a wrongfully convicted black man walking free.”
CNN’s Jill Martin contributed to this report.