By Jade Boone, Howard University News Service
For the first time in history, the NFL has named a Black woman as an official. Her name is Maia Chaka.
Chaka, a physical education and health teacher in the Virginia Beach area, has been a participant in the NFL’s officiating development program since 2014, while officiating at a college level.
“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 also worked the sidelines of college and XFL games. Her weekends are usually devoted to refereeing football, but this fall it will be NFL games.
The NFL updates its roster annually of officials due to position changes, retirements, and departures from the positions. Within the leagues officiating development program, replacements are chosen through there.
“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, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations said in a statement. “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 first Black official the NFL hired was Burl Toler in 1965 and it’s first full-time female official, Sarah Thomas, in 2015. It hasn’t been announced what officiating position Chaka has been hired for and the full list of NFL officials hasn’t been finalized for 2021.
The NFL is working on diversity and inclusion within their officiating and coaching ranks. The league also celebrated its first game with an all black officiating crew in 2020.