Maya Moore, one of the best WNBA players of all time, will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYS to recognize and commend her work in social justice advocacy and criminal justice reform. The legendary basketball player has not participated in the WNBA since 2018, choosing instead to focus her attention on her work regarding these problems.
“I’m so honored to be able to continue to share this powerful story with the world by receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” Moore said in a statement. “In the face of injustice, the courage to care about justice, human dignity, and freedom is now able to be celebrated in this momentous way, and I’m so happy for Jonathan [Irons] and all who helped contribute to this victory.”
Along with founding the Win with Justice campaign, Moore’s most notable accomplishment occurred in 2020, with her successful bid to overturn an innocent man’s life sentence in prison. In 1998, Jonathan Irons was wrongfully convicted of burglary and assault at the age of 16. Vital fingerprint evidence that would have proved Irons’ innocence was purposefully withheld from the court until his retrial in early 2020 and his conviction was overturned in March. After being released in July, he and Moore got married, which must be the most compelling love story ever.
Moore played a key role in freeing Irons from his life sentence; she helped fund his defense team and helped his case for a retrial. She refrained from playing in the 2019 WNBA season so she could focus all her attention on helping Irons get the justice he deserved.
This award aims to honor and commend Moore for her nearly lifelong work advocating for prison reform, criminal justice reform, and social justice. According to ESPN, the Arthur Ashe Courage recognizes athletes who use sports as a conduit to impact the world in indelible ways, and it has become one of the most prestigious awards in sports since its debut in 1993. This award has previously recognized athletes and activists such as Muhammad Ali, Kevin Love, Bill Russell, and Nelson Mandela.
ESPN film’s latest 30 for 30 documentary tells the story of Moore, her passion for criminal justice reform, her role in Irons’ journey to justice, and how her relationship with Irons affected the two of them.
“I wanted to make this film not only to honor and celebrate the incredible criminal justice reform advocacy that Maya has been working toward with Jonathan Irons but also to tell a very human story that is often told inhumanely,” Rudy Valdez, the director of this documentary, said. “I hope the film sheds light on how society demonizes both those behind bars and those connected at home and inspires people to find inner strength and fight against a system that does not want us to win.”
Maya Moore is not only a legendary WNBA athlete. She is an intelligent, passionate, hardworking woman whose commitment to criminal justice reform and social justice advocacy drives her to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves. Through dedication, sacrifice, and hard work, she freed the man who is now her husband from a 50-year prison sentence. She will become the 28th recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2021 ESPYS on July 10. Make sure to tune in!
Allyson Park is a writer and media intern for Knup Sports and the Sports 2.0 Network covering a variety of topics, including football, soccer, and baseball. Connect with Allyson on Instagram @allysonpark01.