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Who is Maia Chaka? The NFL’s first Black female referee

Friday, March 5 saw Maia Chaka announced as the first Black female NFL referee and just the second female referee after Sarah Thomas.

Who is Maia Chaka? NFL first female black referee
Oct 20, 2018; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; UTSA Roadrunners head coach Frank Wilson (left) talks to head linesman Maia Chaka in the second half against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at M. M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, March 5, Maia Chaka made history, becoming the first Black woman to be selected as an NFL official. With the NFL announcing new additions to their officiating staff this week, let’s take a look at the newest female NFL referee on the league’s staff.

Who is Maia Chaka? Background on the newest female NFL referee

Maia Chaka works as a health and physical education teacher in the Virginia Beach public school system. Her colleagues at the Renaissance Acadamy, where she works with students with unique needs, describe her as “a leader by example who inspires confidence.”

During the hardships of the past year, Chaka led from the front. She co-facilitated a professional development opportunity for the faculty at the Renaissance Academy. The aim was to help the faculty engage students during their Zoom calls and to help the students want to come to the virtual classroom.

As well as her description as a leader, Chaka is just as consistent and reliable. Those are both qualities that should see her become a success as an NFL official.

Maia Chaka has been part of the NFL’s Officiating Development Program since 2014

Maia Chaka’s experience as a referee includes spells in the Pac-12 and Conference USA. The NFL’s Officiating Program was put together to identify officials working in college that could make the transition to the NFL. The program gives them exposure and experiences similar to that of NFL officials.

Chaka joined the program in 2014 and has progressed through a system that many see as a pipeline to becoming an NFL official. She also served as an official for the XFL in 2020.

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In a statement released by the NFL, Chaka said, “I am honored to be selected as an NFL official. But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”

The NFL’s executive president of football operations, Troy Vincent, also released a statement through 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. 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.”

Maia Chaka’s appointment took many years of hard work

Maia Chaka’s selection to the NFL’s officiating staff comes just one month after Sarah Thomas became the first female NFL referee to work in the Super Bowl. In truth, Chaka’s exact role on the field is not yet known. Her appointment, however, shows the NFL’s continued drive to diversify their personnel across the game.

Nevertheless, becoming an NFL official is not a simple process. In an interview with CBS News, Chaka told of her journey to the NFL: “You can’t just wake up one day and decide to be an NFL official. You have to train. And just that constant exposure of being around it and being around other veteran officials. I think that was definitely helpful.”

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Maia Chaka’s determination to reach the NFL has been a long road. Early in her career, she admits she pushed hard to try and make it to the NFL. However, her learning during that process was that wisdom required patience. Instead, she focused her attention on becoming the best official she could be at whatever level she was working at at the time. This allowed her to be “…really focused on building myself and getting myself stronger.”

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