WNBA star Maya Moore speaks out on Jonathan Irons’ release from prison

Moore put her basketball career on hold to help free Irons, who was wrongly convicted of burglary and assault more than two decades ago.
9:50 | 07/02/20

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Transcript for WNBA star Maya Moore speaks out on Jonathan Irons’ release from prison
"Gma" and this is truly a thankful Thursday. She is one of the greatest wnba players of all time, four championships, two olympic gold medal, two NCAA titles she won not far from here at UConn. At the height of her career Maya Moore stunned the supports world stepping away from basketball to fight for justice and the release of one man, Jonathan Irons who spent more than two decades behind bars. He was just released late yesterday. We're going to talk to them both live in just a moment. First we want to you take a look at their story. Maya Moore finds some space. Reporter: A decade long friendship between Maya Moore and formerly incourse rated Jonathan Irons was based on family, faith and the pursuit of justice. I was visiting my extended family in Missouri and they had gotten connected with Jonathan through a prison ministry opportunity and so I got to know him through that relationship and started to learn about his case. Reporter: When Jonathan was 16 years old he was tried as an adult and convicted by an all white jury to 50 years for assault and burglary. But Maya working in tandem with his team of lawyers saw holes in the prosecution. Jonathan's indication is special in that I mean there was just so many different problems in his case. There was no other forensic evidence that linked Jonathan to the crime. Just didn't add up that Jonathan could have done it. People don't want to watch a fixed game. That's all we're asking for in our justice system let's be fair and make it equal for every person to have the truth be shown and treated with respect and dignity. Reporter: With a champion's edge, Maya helped win Jonathan's freedom. His conviction was overturned this past March, paving the way for his eventual release after more than two decades. His conviction be vacated and be discharged. 23 years of lies, I'm free. Praise the lord, hallelujah I'm free hallelujah! Hallelujah, indeed and he is free and he is joining us this morning. Jonathan Irons, along with Maya Moore. Ah, live from Jefferson city, Missouri. It is great to see both of you. I could barely sleep in anticipation of talking to you it's been less than 24 hour, Jonathan. Less than 24 hours. Just convey to us your emotions this morning. Whew, I'm absolutely -- absolutely elated and thankful just to be here in this moment right now. You and so many others prayed for this moment, prayed for this moment that you would be released. What was the first thing you did last night as a free man, Jonathan? I think we -- there's so many things happened. I think -- I think the most important thing that stuck out to me is I got to have time to just sit around and just be around my people, my family and friends and, you know, people that I knew growing up and just to be in that moment. We had pizza and just enjoying the moment and loving on each other celebrating. That was what I wanted to do the most and that's what sticks out in my mind the most. Well, my goodness and, Maya Moore, oh, we saw when you dropped to your knees when Jonathan walked out. What were you feeling at though metropolitan and explain to people why you put your career on hold to be a part of the team to help get him released? You know, robin, in that moment I just -- I really felt like I could rest. I mean I've been standing and we've been standing for so long and it just -- it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief and just it was kind of a worshipful moment just dropping to my knees and being so thankful that we made it and, you know, when I stepped away two springs ago, I just really wanted to shift my priorities to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt were mattering more than being a professional athlete and so this is obviously one of the biggest and most direct results of that. You and other athletes, you're stepping up. You're not the only one who has done this and what is your advice to those athletes and other people who want to get out there and they want to fight for social justice as you have, Maya? Yeah, I'd say everything -- everything is built on relationship and so the first step for anybody whether you have a huge platform as a pro or you are someone who is just getting involved in understanding some of the rest store race issues we have in our country. I would say get to know somebody who isn't exactly like you and doesn't come from the same background as you, educate yourself and then just keep showing up. And finding ways to show up for people and your voice will come out of that relationship and out of your pursuit to seeing people who aren't exactly like you. Hey, Maya, I remember when I was on the phone with you several weeks ago and Jonathan happened to call and you put him on the phone with me and, Jonathan, talking to you in prison, not knowing, I mean, you had already been in March it was overturned but you didn't know when you were getting out because the state kept fighting it and there was appeal after appeal. But I was struck, Jonathan, by your grace and you even extend that to the man, the victim of the crime who misidentified you and you have said he is the victim, not once, but twice. What do you mean by that? Once by whoever broke into his house and shot him and, two, by whoever is responsible for manipulating him and feeding him information and, you know, and coaching him to identify me. I believe at some point if not already, maybe later on, he's going to be hit with a lot of gill and I want to let him know that he has a safe place to rest because I do forgive him. I don't blame him or fault him in any way. And that is the grace that you have exhibited and worked very hard those 23 years educating yourself. Maya, as you said this is the second spring, you know, folks were used to seeing you on the court. I'm here in Connecticut where you're a huge star, won two back-to-back title, four titles in the wnba, two olympic gold medals and folks want to know what is next for you, Maya Moore? What do you want to do next? Yeah, you know, robin, these last couple of years I've just really been trying to take it one season at a time and I know it's horrible. We always want to know what's happening next, you know, as a basketball player. You've so scheduled in the knowing of what's going to happen but for the first time in my adult life I'm trying to live in the moment and honestly my rest is going to start now, you know. I haven't really been able to have the fullness of the rest that I wanted and so I'm like, okay, guy, now is the time to take a break so looking forward to some rest and then seeing what the future holes, maybe around the same time next spring. And, Jonathan, for you? What do you want to do next? I want to -- I want to rest and get my legs up under me and be able to stand. There's a lot to adjust to out here and I'm going to take it slow and I'm surrounded by people I know who love me and have my best interest in mind and I'll listen to them and study and learn all I can and when I get the time and opportunity and the resources and the provision, I want to be able to reach back and help other people. I want to advocate for people who are less fortunate. I want to help people with their cases. I want to speak to positive change and be a part of the rebuilding process from where we're at right now because there's so much greater coming in the horizon and I see it. Even in the darkness I was able to see it and I know we're going. We shouldn't give up. We should keep going. I want -- I also right now in this moment I want people to have hope from this story because we're in dark times. And we got to keep going. We got to keep the faith. You said something the other day on the show, you said when faith -- no, you said when fear knocks on the door, you let faith open it and this is a story that we've done that every day. I appreciate you when you said that because that was powerful. Oh, when fear knocks let faith answer the door, where you embody that and I know have you to be exhausted. You haven't been -- I M you've been going nonstop, both of you and it was so great of you and appreciate you sharing your words and getting up with us this morning. Love the t-shirt, Maya Moore. Love what you're wearing about mercy, there is so much more to this story. We are going to work together and share more of your story together but thank you both so very much. Can't wait to see you both. You take care. Have a great day. You too. Appreciate it, robin. You too. Thank you. You got it, Maya. Ooh, you know they got to be tired but, boy, they have fought the good fight.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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