Maia Chaka has made history as the first Black woman to join the National Football League’s (NFL) officiating staff, ESPN reported.
“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” she said in a statement. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”
Chaka joined the NFL’s officiating development program in 2014 while also working as a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“Maia’s years of hard work, dedication and perseverance — including as part of the NFL Officiating Development Program — have earned her a position as an NFL official,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told ESPN. “As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Maia is a trailblazer as the first Black female official and inspires us toward normalizing women on the football field.”
Chaka said on the Today Show that she was in total shock when she learned she had got the position from NFL vice president of officiating evaluation and development Wayne Mackie.
“He goes, ‘Welcome to the National Football League,’ and I just went nuts,” Chaka said. “I asked him, ‘Hey are you punking me, you’ve gotta be kidding me,’ because I’ve been at for so long I just never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.”
Chaka graduated from the historical Black college Norfolk State University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and exercise science. She also completed a teacher’s certificate program there as well.
“We are so very proud of Maia Chaka for the history she made today by becoming the first Black female referee in the National Football League,” Norfolk State University President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston said in a statement according to WAVY. “She is a trailblazer, proudly representing NSU, Black women, and HBCUs. As I have learned more about Maia and her connection to NSU, her story should be one of inspiration for the entire Spartan community and for all women seeking careers in the sports entertainment industry.”
Chaka is now the second female NFL game official, joining Sarah Thomas.