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Maya Moore Talks Criminal Justice and Sports

The time for national criminal justice reform is now and the opportunity for athletes to effect that change has never been greater.

A lot can be said about Maya Moore. She’s an NCAA Champion, WNBA Champion, Rookie of the Year, All-Star and practically any other achievable accolade in basketball. But those things pale in comparison to the work she’s doing now. Maya chose to step away from the game this year for a multitude of reasons. But her focus on criminal justice reform will have a more lasting reach than anything she’s done on the court.

Maya Moore has been on her mission in DC for the last few days. Last week, the visit culminated at the Google offices for a panel discussion was put on by The Undefeated and The Marshall Project. The subject matter is a hot topic in today’s society. Colin Yates, The Undefeated, and Michael Rubin, co-owner of the 76ers/New Jersey Devils, joined her to discuss the constantly intersecting worlds of criminal justice and sports. The conversation was awesome and each panelist offered a unique perspective to the issue at hand. Maya spoke with conviction and transparency as she detailed her journey during her year away from basketball.

Photo Credit: The Players’ Tribune

Maya and the other panelists were amazing. They didn’t give customary “With liberty and justice for all” cookie-cutter responses. They spoke about the real issues that plague our legal system in America. Maya gave one of the most poignant quotes of the afternoon in saying “We lead the world in imprisoned people and that should hurt us.” She and Rubin spoke about their similar experiences in combating the fallacies in our justice system. Maya’s friend Jonathan Irons has been incarcerated since 1997. And Rubin is close friends with rapper Meek Mill. Rubin stated that Mill’s adult life has been “stalked by law enforcement” due to ridiculous probation laws in Pennsylvania. While Moore is still fighting for Jonathan’s freedom, Rubin was able to help Meek Mill eventually resume his life as normal.

While there are thousands of similar cases across America, there’s a reason Irons remains in jail and Mill is free. Rubin pointed out the celebrities and notable public figures that galvanized behind Meek’s cause. Colin Yates pointed out that was a major problem in rectifying this issue. We shouldn’t care simply because famous people with more money than us, care. We should care because it’s wrong. Human beings are suffering mightily at the hands of those sworn to protect them and the general public relies on the enfamed to decide which causes are worthy. That’s something that has to change if we’re going to right this ship.

The phrase “More Than An Athlete” has become somewhat of a cliche that was built on the fabrication from the start. Why are athletes getting involved in social issues considered extracurricular activity? Yates added, “The willfully ignorant premise that sports shouldn’t be political is wrong.” Maya Moore piggybacked on that sentiment by saying that hopefully, her and others activism shows that they are people first and athletes second.

Moore’s trajectory should not be a surprise. While she was playing for the Minnesota Lynx, her team was among the first with a collective public display against police brutality. With her growing interest in aiding people in the same predicament as Irons and the demanding grind of professional basketball, Moore decided she needed to fully dedicate herself to this work. She says she’ll always be connected to the game but it’s virtually impossible to be fully entrenched in both simultaneously. All in all, it was a great event. And while we missed Maya in the W this season, after hearing her speak it’s obvious she’s exactly where she needs to be.

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Hoops Enthusiast. Self Proclaimed Genius. Native Washingtonian. And I know the first and last names of every character on The Simpsons. I have a deep passion for the game of basketball. I have played, reffed, coached and now reporting / blogging.

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