Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Maya Moore to be recognized with Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPYs

Basketball superstar Maya Moore has plenty of experience accepting awards at the ESPYs, having won Best Female College Athlete three years in a row from 2009-2011 and Best WNBA Player in 2014 and 2016.

However, the award she will be receiving at this year’s event on July 10 carries a different kind of significance for the 32-year-old.

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ESPN announced Monday that Moore is being recognized with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for her social justice work since stepping away from basketball in 2019. A majority of Moore’s time has been dedicated to helping overturn the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Irons, which happened in March 2020.

“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 and all who helped contribute to this victory!”

Irons was released from prison on July 1, 2020. Moore posted a video to social media of his first moments as a free man.

“I feel like I can live life now,” Irons said while standing next to Moore in the video. “I’m free, I’m blessed. I just want to live my life worthy of God’s help and influence and just provision in my life. He made this possible. I thank everybody that supported me — Maya, her family. To be home, to have somewhere to be home, I’m so grateful.”

Moore first met Irons when she was 18 and about to head off to the University of Connecticut. She was introduced to his story by her godparents and the two developed a strong friendship over the years.

The story doesn’t end there, though. In fact, this is just the beginning of their journey together.

Last September, Moore and Irons revealed during an appearance on “Good Morning America” they had gotten married shortly after Irons was released from prison.

“Over the last 13 years we have just developed a friendship and just entered into this huge battle to get him home and just over time it was pretty clear what the Lord was doing in our hearts and now we’re sitting here today, starting a whole new chapter together,” Moore said during the interview.

The couple has worked together to continue the fight for social justice in a variety of ways, including a campaign to encourage people to vote in the 2020 election.

Moore has been outspoken about her faith throughout her remarkable career and often references it on social media. “Love God & love people as He has loved us. John 13:34” is included in her Instagram and Twitter bios.

The six-time WNBA All-Star and four-time WNBA champion’s decision to leave basketball in her prime to become a leading criminal justice reform advocate will also be chronicled in an upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary called “Breakaway.” The documentary is scheduled to debut July 13 on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET, three days after the ESPYs.

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