Women have been breaking glass ceilings and rightfully taking up spaces that have otherwise been presumed to be for only men. In NFL’s 101-year history, Maia Chaka has become the first Black female in the league’s official officiating roster, the NFL announced in a statement.
Chaka put in years of hard work to finally make history for not only herself but the many women who also aspire to be recognized in the league not because they are women and Black but because they have put in the needed work.
Like many have done before her in their various fields, Chaka believes her new position in the NFL is more than a personal achievement for all the work she put in, but a win for everyone, especially women.
“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.”
She has always had a love for sports and impacting the lives of others by dedicating herself to enhancing the lives of children throughout her professional career. Currently, she works with at-risk children as a health and physical education teacher in the Virginia Beach public school system.
Chaka earned her bachelor’s in education at the Norfolk State University in 2006. Not long after graduation, she began laying the pipes for what has become the highlight of her career.
She took up officiating high school games and leveled up to college games after a few years. Chaka joined the NFL’s Officiating Development Programme in 2014. This program is a hub for top collegiate officiating talent and gives them the needed exposure that simulates the work done by the NFL officials.
“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.
Recently, Chaka made history as one of the first women officials to work an FBS bowl game – the Fight Hunger Bowl between Washington and BYU. She has also had stints in the NFL preseason games, Pac-12 Conference, and Conference USA and now she will be an NFL official being a part of the 2021 official games roster.
The news of her upgrade to the official roster came just in time for Women’s History Month. Her mentor Wayne Mackie, NFL vice president of officiating evaluation and development, broke the news to her which rendered her speechless because she thought it was a prank. “I thought he was just calling to give me some advice on something else or to look at some film,” Chaka said. “I wasn’t expecting to get a call to be hired.”
Having worked hard for this very moment, Chaka felt it has been a long time coming and Vincent Sr. could not agree more. “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.”
The long-time mentor wants her role to inspire others to never stop pursuing their passion regardless of the limitations that may befall them. Chaka is also aiming at being the best referee she can be. “Just because the door is now open, that doesn’t mean that I can relax,” she said. “I still go through that football mentality. I still have that hustle, that dog mentality every single day — and that’s the grind.”