Every year since 2004, Time Magazine compiles a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The all-encompassing list includes everyone from political leaders to business moguls to medical workers to musical artists. The list’s purpose is not to necessarily honor people who are universally liked and respected — Donald Trump and William Barr are on the list this year. Rather, the list serves to recognize people who have had an impact on the world, regardless of whether that impact was positive or negative.
Former UConn women’s basketball legend Maya Moore makes her first appearance on the list this year in the “Pioneers” section. Athletes always take up a few spots on the list with people like LeBron James, Tiger Woods and J.J. Watt being included in the past and Megan Rapinoe and Patrick Mahomes being included alongside Moore this year.
With athletes though, they are usually included for reasons that transcend sports themselves, and that is certainly the case with Moore, who has used her platform as an athlete to become an advocate for criminal justice reform.
Moore had an amazing college basketball career at UConn that included two National Championships and two National Player of the Year Awards. Then, after being selected first overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft, she helped lead the Minnesota Lynx to four WNBA titles in her eight seasons, winning numerous individual awards during that time too, including a league MVP in 2014.
Then, before the 2019 season, Moore announced that she would be stepping away from basketball in the prime of her career to focus all her time on ministry and criminal justice reform. She became heavily involved with one case in particular: the case of Jonathan Irons, a family friend who had been wrongfully convicted of burglary and assault and was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1998.
Irons was tried as an adult for the crime at 16 years old and was convicted by an all-White jury despite there being no direct evidence to implicate him. Moore used her platform to get Irons’ case appealed again, this time with a much better lawyer, and after a year of hard work, Irons’ conviction was overturned and he was released from prison on July 1 of this year after serving 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
Moore and Irons became very close during his time in prison, and they announced on “Good Morning America” last week that they had gotten married recently and will continue to work together to free other wrongly-convicted inmates.
Moore certainly earned her spot on this year’s Time list for her work with the Irons case. It is yet another achievement for a woman who has already accomplished so much in her sport. But this recognition is special because it acknowledges her tireless efforts off the court to make this country better.