Maya Moore black girl magic Jonathan irons prison industrial complex

Moore Than Magic: How Maya Moore Did The Damn Thang


WNBA superstar Maya Moore is considered by many as the greatest winner in Women’s basketball history. She’s won at every level possible with championship and MVP trophies from every stop, High School to the pros. To list her basketball accolades would take me an hour. This isn’t a basketball article, though. This article is about “Magic.”


In 1997, a 16-year-old black kid named Jonathan Irons was incarcerated for the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner during a burglary. There was no evidence that connected Jonathan to the crime. There was no DNA, no fingerprints, and no footprints. Jonathan was convicted based on “eyewitness” testimony. Credible witnesses to Jonathan’s whereabouts during this robbery (as he was not involved) were never brought to testify.

Jonathan, at 16 years old, was interrogated by authorities alone, without the presence of a consenting adult. (Sound familiar?) The victim of this crime acknowledged to police that he could not identify his assailant, but was told to “make his best guess.” This “guess” landed Jonathan Irons a 50-year sentence for a crime he did not commit.

This is America. I could write that paragraph about over 10,000 men per year, today. The overwhelming majority of those incarcerated are in that position because they committed a crime and have to pay the price. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the wrongfully accused—those serving significant time for non-violent crimes. I have names for them. “The New Slaves” or “The Thirteeners” explain them best.

They aren’t there for the crime. They are there for indentured servitude and bound by the 13th amendment to stay in that situation. Enter the Prison Industrial Complex. Incarcerate for cash. Privatize prison. Round up Blacks and Latinos for even the smallest of crimes and levy harsh sentences. Send them to “work camps” down south to tend to the fields without pay.


Does this sound familiar to anyone???


Maya Moore met Jonathan Irons through a family member’s prison ministry program when they were 18 and 16 years old, respectively.  “I was shocked and horrified to discover that this was happening to someone who was only a couple years younger than I was at the time of his arrest. I was even more shocked to learn that over 10,000 people may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year and that prosecutorial misconduct is rampant in communities across the United States,” Moore said in a statement about their meeting.

It struck a nerve. Maya was on her way to the University of Connecticut to become the Women’s basketball goat. She would also be enrolling in the Hogwarts School… She just didn’t know it yet.


Maya Moore black girl magic Jonathan irons prison industrial complexA funny thing about Black Girl Magic is that they all have it. Sometimes it just needs to be refined. You’ve seen it at its best. You’ve seen that glow. Think about Viola Davis in a broadway play. You already knew she’d win an oscar. Michelle Obama looked more like The Queen than the First Lady. Have you ever seen photos of Harriet Tubman? She would’ve whooped yo’ ass bro.

This Black lady led Union soldiers on a military expedition. That never happened before and hasn’t happened since. This is the magic I’m talking about. Maya Moore was about to become a magician. She was about to make the ultimate sacrifice.

In 2019, Maya Moore announced that she was stepping away from basketball and putting all of her efforts and resources into prison reform, namely getting Jonathan Irons out of jail where he’d been given a 50-year sentence. The basketball world was shocked. The sports world was shocked. The 4-time WNBA champion was gonna skip the 2020 season, where her team would be one of the favorites to win it all again. I can imagine the look on Mr. Irons’s face when he heard this. Finally, a lifeline.



“I have no doubts about my choice. I’m investing my time and effort where it needs to be.”



Moore gave this statement to The New York Times in January. “I’m in a really good place right now with my life, and I don’t want to change anything. Basketball has not been foremost in my mind. I’ve been able to rest, and connect with people around me, actually be in their presence after all of these years on the road. And I’ve been able to be there for Jonathan.” See that Magic?


Maya Moore black girl magic Jonathan irons prison industrial complex
Courtesy: NY Times

It is the selfless act of dedicating your time and resources to somebody who needs it desperately. It’s an innate love that is unconditional. Though it’s tried every day in our society, it has proven to be stronger than any obstacle standing in its way. When I look at my mom, sis, aunties, and cousins (I have sooooooo many), I see that I’m surrounded by it. These women have been through so much hell and darkness, yet they shine bright like diamonds. They are always ready to help and ready to love, magically.

I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it’s a royal bloodline. Perhaps we are God’s chosen people, but God is a woman, and that’s why Whitney Houston’s voice sounded like that. Maybe that’s why every time you see Patti Labelle, you want to hug her. Perhaps that is why when you saw that little girl leading the line of protesters pumping her tiny fists screaming “NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE,” you felt like you could run through a brick wall. Maybe its why when you hear the name “Breonna Taylor,” you want to kill somebody. She’s mom, sis, auntie, daughter, etc. She’s Maya Moore…


You can’t take them from us. They are too valuable. While we are under attack, their “magic’ is our backbone.


Maya Moore fought her ass off. She didn’t “shut up and dribble.” On March 9th, 2020, Jonathan Iron’s wrongful conviction was magically overturned. On July 1st, he walked out of jail a free man after serving 22 years for no reason. Missouri judge Daniel Green granted Irons’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus. A fingerprint was found inside the home where the burglary and shooting occurred belonging neither to Mr. Irons or the victim. The fingerprint report was never turned over to Irons’s defense team, indicative of the systemic racism and misconduct within America’s courts.

The Judge ruled that the evidence against Mr. Irons was “weak and circumstantial at best.”


Maya Moore black girl magic Jonathan irons prison industrial complex
Courtesy: New York Times

When Jonathan Irons walked out of jail, the magician was there to greet him. Every black man in America that has been affected by the prison industrial complex felt that moment, for the moment. Then the horror sets in. So many families… so many generations of black people have been destroyed due to this “new slavery.” Does Donald Trump or Joe Biden care? Have they been affected by this virus?

Fuck no. You sit and believe State TV if you want. That’s foolish. These old white dudes care about living the last years of their lives in comfort, looking down on their political opponents. Everything else is secondary. What we as a people need to do is take the initiative for our leadership. Some of us have such a large platform that we can circumvent the bullshit through some hard work and a willingness to be uncomfortable. Maya Moore worked hard for Jonathan Irons and made a difference.


It’s a slow grind, but even if we have to go case by case, returning a patriarch to his family to continue his duties for them is a win for Black and Brown communities. American society has been engineered to keep the Black and Brown father out of the home for fear of what equal opportunity for everyone would do to American society. Get it? If not, hit me in the inbox, and I’ll explain.

But for right now, I have a question…


Are we missing Maya Moore’s Black Girl Magic more on the WNBA court or in the United States Senate?


Let that sink in… Magically.

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-Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media


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