VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NewsNation Now) — The NFL has named Maia Chaka as its first Black female official in the league’s history.
The league made the announcement Friday morning on NBC’s Today Show. She will work games during the 2021 season.
“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” Chaka said. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”
She’ll also be the second woman ever to officiate an NFL regular-season game. Sarah Thomas made history in 2015, and recently became the first female referee to work the Super Bowl.
Chaka enters the NFL after working in the Pac-12 and Conference USA. She was selected in 2014 for the NFL’s Officiating Development Program, which identifies college officiating talent with the goal of showing them some of the same experiences as NFL officials before determining if they have the ability to succeed as an NFL official. But Chaka first started locally at the high school level.
“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, who oversees the league’s football operations. “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 is a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The Norfolk State University graduate has been working with at-risk youth there for the past decade.
She said overall, her achievements are big for representation, especially for the kids at her school.
“The amazing thing about athletics period, it brings a lot of people together,” Chaka said on ESPN during an XFL broadcast last year. “And by me being a teacher at home, I teach at-risk youth at home in Virginia Beach, it gives those girls the opportunity to see, ‘Okay, I see my teacher can work with some people that don’t look like her and maybe that gives me the opportunity to work with people that don’t look like me also.’ So it increases diversity all around.”
The NFL did not specify which officiating position she will work.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WAVY contributed to this report.