Maia Chaka made history by becoming the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game on Sunday, Sporting News reports.
Making her debut as a line judge during the New York Jets vs. Carolina Panthers game, Chaka is only the third on-field female official in the history of the NFL. She joins Sarah Thomas, the first permanent female game official and Shannon Eastin, who was the first woman to officiate an NFL game.
“This historic moment to me is an honor, and it’s a privilege that I’ve been chosen to represent women and women of color in the most popular sport in America, proving that I can defy the odds and overcome and pretty much master a craft of a sport that I didn’t really play but I have a love and a passion for,” Chaka in a video tweeted by the NFL. “And hopefully that just gives somebody else, you know, some inspiration and empowers them to step outside the box and do something different.”
Chaka, a health and physical education teacher in the Virginia Beach public school system, served as a referee in the NCAA’s Pac-12 Conference, Conference USA, and in the XFL in 2020.
In 2014, she entered the NFL’s Officiating Development Program which is designed to develop top officiating prospects in the collegiate ranks and offer them “exposure to in-game experiences that NFL officials face, to determine if they have the ability to succeed,” according to the NFL.
Back in March, Troy Vincent, Sr., an NFL executive vice president of football operations, noted Chaka’s historic accomplishment when it was announced that she would work her first game in the 2021 season.
“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 Vincent. “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.”
In an interview with The Undefeated, Chaka spoke about her journey to fulfill her dream and the importance of women working in other positions in the NFL.
“We want to be more inclusive,” she argued. “We want to have more women involved, in all aspects of football.“
“There are a ton of job opportunities within the National Football League that don’t necessarily have to do with being on the field,” she continued. “And just having them be around in that aspect, too, can be helpful. Everybody needs a woman’s touch, right?”