Maia Chaka, 38, officiated her first NFL game over the weekend, becoming the first black woman to ref an NFL game. She was the line judge during the game between the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets, which aired on CBS Sunday afternoon. The announcement of her hire was made back on March 5, 2021. She is only the third women referee in the NFL.
Chaka, who had also officiated some preseason games, hopes that her presence on the field will inspire other women to become involved in officiating. In a video released by the NFL, Chaka expressed how important it was for her to be able to represent women of color in the most popular sport in America.
In a video released by the NFL, Maia Chaka said:
“Proving that I can defy the odds and overcome and pretty much master a craft of sport a sport that I didn’t play, but I have a love and passion for and hopefully that just gives someone else some inspiration and empowers them to step outside the box and do something different.”
Who is Maia Chaka?
Chaka is a graduate of the historically black college Norfolk State University in Virginia. She dedicated much of her early career to helping improve the lives of young people. Before she was hired by the NFL she was a physical education teacher at the Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach.
The charter school’s mission is to provide quality education for students in the Virginia Beach area. Their goal is also to provide a safe supportive environment for all students to meet the challenges of a global society.
While teaching, Chaka began officiated PAC-12 football games. She joined the NFL’s Officiating Development Program in 2014, a program tailored to training and mentoring college-level officials with aspirations of refereeing in the NFL.
“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,” said Troy Vincent, Sr., NFL executive vice president of football operations.
Chaka also plans to continue teaching in the Virginia Beach area and believes her officiating will help her students realize that achieving a dream is about hard work and not about what you look like.