Maia Chaka Hired as NFL's 1st Black Female Official

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

The NFL logo is shown on the field prior to an NFL football game between the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The NFL announced Friday it has hired Maia Chaka as a game official for the 2021 season. She becomes the first Black woman to join the league's officiating roster.

"It didn't really hit me until just now," Chaka said during an appearance on NBC's Today show. "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."

Chaka, who also works as a health and physical education teacher in Virginia, joined the NFL's officiating development program in 2014.

She previously worked at the collegiate level, including stops in the Pac-12 and Conference USA.

"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," executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent Sr. said. "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."

Chaka explained on Today she's hopeful her story will provide motivation and hope to the at-risk students she works with at the Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach.

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"I just want them to know if you have a passion for something and if 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."

Sarah Thomas became the NFL's first full-time female official in 2015. She worked Super Bowl LV last month, which saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, becoming the first woman to officiate in the league's championship game.

Shannon Eastin worked as an NFL official for part of the 2012 season during a referee lockout, making her the first woman to hold a role on a regular-season officiating crew.

Chaka also owns some pro experience, having worked for the XFL during its 2020 campaign, which was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.