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With the help of WNBA star Maya Moore, Jonathan Irons is freed from prison - The Washington Post

Maya Moore was instrumental in securing the release of Jonathan Irons. (Jeff Haldiman/The Jefferson City News-Tribune via AP, File)

By Gene Wang and

Gene Wang

Sports reporter covering local and national college football and basketball

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Cindy Boren

Cindy Boren

Reporter covering sports, with an emphasis on politics and national stories

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July 2 at 11:43 AM

With the help of WNBA star Maya Moore, a Missouri man was released from prison Wednesday with Moore on hand to welcome him as he walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Moore, who is from Jefferson City, clapped and then fell to her knees as Jonathan Irons emerged from the prison. The Minnesota Lynx star was active in working for Irons’s release, arguing along with others that he had been falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.

“Apparently I couldn’t keep standing,” Moore said during a teleconference with media Thursday morning. “It just felt so surreal to watch him walking on the other side of doors. We’re just so used to go into him and leaving him there.

“To see all the possibilities when he walked out, and just excited that the world and the community is going to get to enjoy such a remarkable human being.”

Irons, 40, was serving a 50-year prison sentence after the nonfatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area, an incident that occurred when Irons was 16. In March, his convictions were tossed out by a judge who cited problems that included a fingerprint report that had not been made available to Irons’s defense team.

An appeal by the Missouri attorney general’s office was unsuccessful and the St. Charles County prosecutor’s office decided not to retry the case.

“Whew,” Irons said Thursday during an appearance on “Good Morning America.” “I’m absolutely elated and thankful just to be here in this moment right now.”

[Kevin Blackistone: Maya Moore left the basketball court for criminal justice reform. She is seeing the results.]

Moore, a four-time WNBA champion who played in college at U-Conn., met Irons through a prison ministry program, according to the New York Times. Moore, 31, skipped last season and has indicated she plans to skip this season as well.

“While I have been able to get some rest away from the court, I feel like our family needs to enter into a new season of rest for a while,” Moore said. “And I’m still very much about taking another full year of just being more rooted at home, and obviously with everything going on the world, that’s what a lot of people are leaning toward.

“That’s definitely the direction I’m wanting to enjoy and be present in.”

Although Irons’s convictions were thrown out in March, Moore has maintained she would not play this season or in the Tokyo Olympics, originally scheduled for this summer.

The 22-game WNBA regular season, meanwhile, is set to begin late this month at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., with the playoffs taking place there as well, although other players have also elected to opt out for different reasons.

On the reigning champion Washington Mystics, for instance, starting guard Natasha Cloud recently announced she would not be playing this season to focus on social justice advocacy. Forward-center LaToya Sanders also has decided not to play for health reasons amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Anytime you see anyone sacrifice for another human being, that hits at your heart,” said Moore, the 2014 WNBA MVP. “Seeing athletes or people looking inside of themselves and saying, ‘What can I do to empower someone else?’ is amazing, and it’s inspiring.

“It’s why we get encouraged and inspired to do that in our own lives. It’s by watching other people do it, so I’m pumped that people are understanding where the real change lies as far as giving something up. That’s all of us, giving something up, if you have any sort of power, resources. You give it up and empower others, and you become a better person in the process.”

Read more from The Post:

For athletes, the decision to opt out is fraught with health concerns and pull of social activism

Maya Moore to skip another WNBA season while working to help free a man from prison