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Good thing Maya Moore didn't 'shut up and dribble'

Dear Mr. Biden:

I thought about sending this to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But I figure you'll be there soon enough, so why not alert somebody who might actually listen?

I'd like you to consider, after your inauguration, to award Maya Moore the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Maya, quite literally, deserves a medal for championing an incarcerated man's freedom. And delivering.

You may remember Maya during her two trips to the White House (2009-10) with UConn women's basketball. Yet what she just accomplished, taking two years' sabbatical in the prime of her WNBA career to focus on reform of the American Justice System, is selflessness wrapped in conviction and courage — the very essence of the Medal of Freedom.

Maya's work for a Missouri man she believed was wrongfully imprisoned resulted in an overturned conviction in March and his release from prison last week.

Jonathan Irons, 40, a Black man, was sentenced to 50 years in prison after being convicted of breaking into a home outside St. Louis and twice shooting a homeowner. Irons was 16 at the time, but was tried and convicted as an adult — despite no corroborating witnesses. It turned out that a judge ruled in March that prosecutors withheld fingerprint evidence that did not implicate Irons.

Irons was released from jail last week, after being incarcerated for nearly 25 years. Moore met Mr. Irons in 2007, just before her UConn days. Her time away from basketball was mostly about Mr. Irons' release and the tentacles of criminal justice reform attached.

Here, Mr. Biden, is what the official website says about the Presidential Medal of Freedom: "The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is — along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal — the highest civilian award in the U.S. It recognizes those individuals who have made 'an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.'"

I can't think of a better candidate than Maya Moore.

I wish I knew her better in her days at UConn. Maya came along at the time when social media's prevalence contributed to less media access — or at least the access that used to allow us one-on-one time to forge better relationships with the kids. I got to know Rita Williams, Nykesha Sales, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams well in the old days because the times were different. No Internet frauds with media badges feigning journalism.

Still, there was always an understated dignity about Maya — very similar to how we perceive Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Think of what Maya did here, Mr. Biden. Not only did she give up prime years of her career, but she resisted advice from that sage known as Laura Ingraham. You may remember that LeBron James' musings apparently violated Ms. Ingraham's airspace a few years ago. Ms. Ingraham told LeBron to "shut up and dribble," the last refuge for someone who is about to lose an argument and needs to save face. I get that a lot now, too, Mr. Biden. I should "stick to sports."

What if Maya had merely shut up and dribbled? What if Maya had merely stuck to sports? An innocent man would still be in jail. I can't think of another athlete right now more heroic than Maya Moore.

And so I hope my modest proposal somehow makes your desk. "Maya Moore Day" at the White House would be quite the tone-setter for your four years. The nation would see a young, strong, determined woman who understands the necessity of "we" over "me," especially when we'll be coming off four years negotiating a nattering nabob of narcissism.

Thanks for reading this far and stay safe, Mr. Biden.

Mike D.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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