A WNBA star sat out the 2019 season to help a wrongfully convicted man. He just walked free.

When Jonathan Irons was 16, he was put on trial for burglary and assault with a weapon. According to CBS Sports, Irons was tried as adult, and an all-white jury found him guilty—despite there being no witnesses, no fingerprints, no footprints, and no DNA proving his guilt.

Irons began his 50-year sentence in a Missouri state prison in 1998. Now, 22 years later, he's a free man, largely thanks to the tireless efforts of a WNBA superstar.

Maya Moore is arguably the most decorated professional women's basketball player in the U.S. A first-round draft pick in 2011, she's played for the Minnesota Lynx, where she became a six-time WNBA All-Star, a five-time All-WNBA First Team player, a four-time WNBA champion, and the WNBA Most Valuable Player in 2014.

But before the 2019 season, in the peak of her career, Moore decided to take the year off for a different kind of court battle—one that had wrongfully convicted a young man and doomed him to spend most of his life behind bars. Her decision rocked her sport, and there was no guarantee that sacrificing an entire season to fight for criminal justice reform would bear any fruit.


Moore's family met Irons through a prison ministry program. According to The Undefeated, Irons wouldn't have been eligible for parole for another 20 years, but in March a Missouri judge overturned his conviction. A string of appeals were rejected, the Supreme Court refused to take the case, and the lead prosecutor declined to retry Irons.

That meant he was free.

Moore was at the prison to meet Irons when he walked out, falling to her knees in the emotional moment.

"I feel like I can live life now," Irons said in a video from outside the prison. "I'm free, I'm blessed, I just want to live my life worthy of God's help and influence... I thank everybody that supported me, Maya and her family... To have somewhere to be home, I'm so grateful."

Moore told Good Morning America after Irons' release, "In that moment, I really felt like I could rest. I'd been standing, and we'd been standing, for so long; and it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief. It was kind of a worshipful moment, just dropping to my knees and just being so thankful that we made it."

Since she hasn't had any time to truly rest in the past year of working toward this goal, Moore will continue her hiatus from basketball through the 2020 season.

Minnesota Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve expressed some understandably mixed feelings in a statement that beautifully encapsulates the power of the moment and also the problem that it highlights:

"Maya Moore got to celebrate another championship yesterday and none of us who have been blessed to have Maya in our lives are surprised. I cannot imagine, however, what this one must feel like. I was overwhelmed seeing Maya watch Jonathan Irons walk out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man. For the last few years we watched as she gracefully committed herself to Jonathan's case, and as she has done so often on the basketball court, put the Irons team on her back. I am overcome with joy that Maya and all involved were able to reach their goal of Jonathan's exoneration.

I also can't help but feel a great deal of anger. Maya Moore should never have had to leave her profession to engage in the fight against the two-tiered criminal justice system that over polices, wrongfully convicts, and over sentences black and brown communities. The criminal justice system in America is so far from fair and equal and it angers me that Maya has had to sacrifice so much to overcome this racially disparate system.

On behalf of the Lynx organization, we are so proud of Maya for earning the biggest win of her career. I am sure that she was voted MVP of this championship, too. This time there is no hardware to take home to the trophy case, just a wrongfully convicted black man walking free."

via Good Morning America

Anyone who's an educator knows that teaching is about a lot more than a paycheck. "Teaching is not a job, but a way of life, a lens by which I see the world, and I can't imagine a life that did not include the ups and downs of changing and being changed by other people," Amber Chandler writes in Education Week.

So it's no surprise that Kelly Klein, 54, who's taught at Falcon Heights Elementary in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, for the past 32 years still teaches her kindergarten class even as she is being treated for stage-3 ovarian cancer.

Her class is learning remotely due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, so she is able to continue doing what she loves from her computer at M Health Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, even while undergoing chemotherapy.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

Keep Reading Show less