It’s a touchdown for representation!
Maia Chaka has been announced as the first Black woman to be added to the NFL roster for game officials in the league’s 101-year history; the NFL announced Friday morning. Chaka joined the NFL seven years ago after being selected for an NFL officiating development program; she said she’s been working up to this day for a long time.
“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” Chaka 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.”
“I just never thought the day would come.”advertisement
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 5, 2021
The graduate of Norfolk State University earned her bachelor’s in education in 2006 and is currently a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy, where she works with at-risk youth. She began her career in 2006 doing high school games and moved up to college ranks. In 2014, she made history as one of the first women officials to work an FBS bowl game – the Fight Hunger Bowl between Washington and BYU. Her mentor Wayne Mackie, NFL vice president of officiating evaluation and development, called her with the news on March 1st. She said she was speechless.
“He goes, ‘Welcome to the National Football League,’ and I just went nuts,” Chaka told reporters. “I asked him, ‘Hey are you punking me, you’ve gotta be kidding me,’ because I’ve been at it for so long; I just never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.”
As part of the developmental program, Chaka has worked NFL preseason games, and now she will be a regular-season referee.
“It didn’t really hit me until just now,” Chaka said on TODAY. “When I saw the introduction, I’m like, ‘This is really real,’ because this is just something that we’re just always taught to work hard for. Sometimes we just don’t take time to stop and smell our own roses.”
She said she wants her new role to inspire her students to go for what they dream and not let anything hold them back.
“I just want them to know if you have a passion for something and if you have a drive for something, don’t let it hold you back just because you think that something may give you some type of limitation,” she said. “Just continue to work hard and always, always, always just follow your dreams.”
Chaka has already gained fans on the internet!
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is so exciting to recognize Maia Chaka for making NFL history as she becomes their first Black female referee! Welcome to the NFL!!!! pic.twitter.com/I6034ASBDQ
— Teresa Turner (@teesturn) March 5, 2021advertisement
It makes a huge difference when you’re intentional! Congratulations Maia Chaka! https://t.co/cFRVuzLIc0
— Hugh Rowden (@HughRowden) March 5, 2021advertisement
Congratulations, Maia Chaka!advertisement
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) March 5, 2021
“This moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community & my culture.”advertisement
— TroyVincentSr (@TroyVincentSr) March 5, 2021
Major congrats to Maia Chaka! We love to see it!!
We’ve got the first Black woman to be named an NFL official! https://t.co/uOTPUNoycY
— Kelsey Nicole Nelson (KNN) (@therealknelson) March 5, 2021advertisement
Wow! I’m watching the Today show and I see that Maia Chaka, a VA Beach teacher, is joining the NFL as the first Black female referee!
Breaking molds and paving a path for others!
Teacher of the Year and trailblazer.
— Neice (@MsO_on_the_go) March 5, 2021advertisement
— KT Mosley (@ktmoze) March 5, 2021advertisement
We’re glad to see her hard fought dream come true! Congratulations, Maia!