UConn legend Maya Moore marries Jonathan Irons, the man she helped free from wrongful conviction
Maya Moore has married Jonathan Irons, the wrongly convicted man she helped free from prison earlier this year.
The couple made the announcement Wednesday on “Good Morning America,” with Moore saying they wed “a couple months ago.”
“We are super excited to continue the work that we’ve been doing together, but doing it as a married couple,” the basketball legend turned activist told host Robin Roberts.
Moore stepped away from the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx in February 2019 to focus her attention on criminal justice reform, specifically the case involving Irons. The Missouri man was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1998 on burglary and assault charges when he was 16.
They met each other 13 years ago, when a then-18-year-old Moore was introduced to Irons by family through a prison ministry program.
“I was about to be a freshman at UConn. My godparents and my great-uncle introduced me to him and his story and his case, being wrongfully convicted,” said Moore, now 31. “He had been in prison over a decade at that point. I was just interested in learning, got to know him; over the last 13 years we have just developed a friendship and have just entered into a huge battle to get him home.
“Just over time, it’s pretty clear what the Lord was doing in our hearts. Now we’re sitting here today, starting a whole new chapter together.”
Irons, 40, said he first asked Moore to marry him a few years ago while he was imprisoned in Missouri. However, Irons told her to wait until he was free before answering.
“Being in a relationship with a man in prison is extremely difficult and painful,” Irons said. “I didn’t want her to feel trapped. I wanted her to feel open and have the ability anytime, if this is too much for you, go and find somebody, live your life because this is hard. But at the same time she was like, ‘Well, I’m here now.’”
Irons’ conviction was overturned March 9 after a judge ruled that prosecutors suppressed fingerprint evidence that would have strengthened his defense. He was released from the Jefferson City (Missouri) Correctional Center on July 1.
Some time later, Irons popped the question for a second time.
“When I got out we were in the hotel room, we had some friends in the room, it was winding down and we were extremely tired, but we were still gassed up on excitement,” Irons said. “It was just me and her in the room and I got down on my knees and I looked up at her and she kind of knew what was going on and I said, ‘Will you marry me?’ She said, ‘Yes.’”
As they forge ahead in their new life together, Irons said the couple is currently working to educate the public about the voting process ahead of this year’s presidential election and plan to seek justice for other wrongfully convicted individuals through Moore’s nonprofit, Win With Justice.”
“It’s a big fight,” Irons said of criminal justice reform. “The more hands involved makes the work easier. We’re doing our part.”
At the conclusion of her interview with Moore and Irons, Roberts revealed that ESPN Films is teaming with Roberts’ production company to produce a documentary about the couple’s story.
As for whether Moore plans to resume her basketball career, the former WNBA MVP and two-time national player of the year at UConn said she hopes to have an answer in the spring.
“I’m still trying to be so present in this second year away from the game,” Moore said. “I’m hoping sometime in the spring we’ll be able to have a next step moving forward, but right now I’m just trying to breathe from this long, long battle and just enjoy and rest. Again, just being in the moment there’s a lot of unknowns for a lot of us right now, so I’m still in that camp.”
Moore is among the all-time great UConn players. She won two NCAA titles, was a four-time AP All-American, and scored a program-record 3,036 points. She went on to be taken first overall in the 2011 WNBA draft by Minnesota, with whom she’s won four league championships.
Asked her reaction to Wednesday’s announcement, Minnesota head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said on Zoom that while she’s happy Moore found joy with Irons, Moore returning isn’t something that’s been on her mind of late.
“I’m just not in that mode, to be honest with you,” said Reeve, whose team will face Phoenix in the second round of the WNBA playoffs Thursday in Florida. “As we’ve said, we’ve stayed in touch with Maya throughout the process. She has been pretty busy taking care of some life events. Where we are and what we’re doing, that’s just not something that’s on my mind.”