She received the esteemed award from ABC News anchor Robin Roberts. But Moore was ushered to the stage by her husband, Jonathan Irons, the man she helped free from prison after he was incarcerated for a wrongful conviction.
Irons had been incarcerated for two decades before Moore was able to finally get him exonerated; he was serving a sentence of 50 years for a burglary and assault conviction.
The Arthur Ashe Award is given to those athletes who display exceptional conduct that positively impacts the world — something Moore challenged viewers to do as she spoke to audiences watching the broadcast of the award ceremony on ABC.
“These sacrifices we make in sports are great, but I would invite you to see them as just pointers to the sacrifices of life that matter most, the ones that are centered around helping each other live to the fullest,” Moore said. “Sacrificing the power you have to humanize someone else. Power is not meant to be gripped with a clenched fist or to be hoarded. But power is meant to be handled generously so we can thoughtfully empower one another to thrive in our communities for love’s sake, championing our humanity before our ambitions.”
That fight for humanity transitioned into a fight for love. The two fell in love during Moore’s initial quest for justice for Irons. He had been sitting in a prison cell for 22 years when they were introduced to each other through the prison ministry program. Moore became deeply involved in Irons’ case and began a campaign for his freedom, which led to her creating the Win with Justice organization. She put her WNBA career on pause to focus totally on Irons’ freedom, even though he was just her friend at the time.
The two are now married. After Irons was released, he popped the question. At the award ceremony, the two sat side by side during the event at a table while the rain sprinkled down from the sky. On stage, Moore proceeded with her speech.
“Jonathan, I’m just so happy for you. Y’all, let’s just say hallelujah, first of all, that Jonathan is sitting here right now,” Moore said. “ I don’t ever want that to get old, just the miracle of your life and who you are.”
Her four WNBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, one WNBA MVP award and three All-Star MVPs — as well as her many other accolades — didn’t compare to her passion for fighting for prison reform.
Moore spoke about “the courage it takes to love when it’s hard,” said the People article. The fight for her husband’s freedom could have been easy if the previous judge had known about the evidence presented to the judge that freed Irons.
Just like all those who received the Ashe award before her, Moore’s name stands in the presence of greatness.