A year and change ago, at the height of her career, Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore announced her indefinite hiatus from professional basketball.
She explained that she had some personal work to do involving ministry and family... and the legal case of a man named Jonathan Irons, who had been in prison since his conviction of a burglary and assault in Missouri as a teenager.
The incident itself took place when he was only 16, but he was tried as an adult anyway.
In March, Judge Daniel Green vacated the 1998 conviction based on a series of problems with the investigation and trial. It was discovered that a fingerprint found at the crime scene – which had not been turned over to Irons’s defense team – did not belong to either him or the victim. The case against him, he said, was “very weak and circumstantial at best.” Certainly not worthy of a 50-year prison sentence.
Irons was finally freed from prison in July.
Flash forward to this week. On Wednesday morning, Moore was sitting beside Irons on Good Morning America, announcing their joint plans to continue social justice work… and their new lives as a married couple.
They explained they’d quietly gotten married a few months ago, and they were “excited” to begin this new chapter together.
If you’re thinking, “Well, that escalated quickly,” we certainly don’t blame you, but this union has been in the works for a long time.
Moore and her family had met Irons through prison ministry in 2007, right before she was to begin turning heads playing ball at the University of Connecticut. She was 18, and he’d been in prison for over a decade, all the while insisting he’d been misidentified and had been nowhere near the scene of the crime. (The victim had been unable to pick his assailant out of a lineup, and Irons and another Black man were merely his best guesses.)
They developed, as the New York Times put it, a “close, siblinglike bond,” which blossomed and changed as the years went on. Moore became an advocate for criminal justice reform, particularly in its treatment of Black men, and led the Lynx in one of the first highly visible athlete protests for the Black Lives Matter movement.
A few years ago, Irons explained on Good Morning America, he and Moore were discussing the fact that they’d developed strong feelings for one another. So strong, he said, that he knew then and there that he wanted to marry her, and told her as much.
But he told her not to answer. Not yet.
“Because being in a relationship with a man in prison is extremely painful,” he explained. “I didn’t want her to feel trapped.”
He told her to wait to decide until he was home.
In 2019, Moore explained she was stepping away from absolutely crushing it in the WNBA to help finally prove this man’s innocence and get him out of prison.
After months of petitioning to get the case re-tried – Moore all the while using her fame to boost the case’s profile and funding high quality legal representation – Irons and his advocates were able to see him walk out of Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man.
He and Moore got a hotel room, both extremely tired, but “gassed up” on the excitement of the day.
Then Irons got down on one knee. He proposed. She accepted.
The couple is now knee-deep in a get-out-the-vote campaign, and want to help other wrongfully convicted prisoners get their cases overturned. Asked if she intends to return to basketball, Moore said she's still living in the moment.
To be fair, it's quite a moment.