The NFL has added a second female official to its official list for 2021. Maia Chaka, who joins Super Bowl 55 judge Sarah Thomas, will make history herself as the first black woman to officiate games in the league.
The announcement was made exclusively on NBC’s “The TODAY Show” on Friday morning. Chaka, who had spent seven years on the NFL’s official development program, was stunned to learn of her March 1 promotion from working college football games at the Pac-12 conference.
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“It hasn’t really hit me until now,” Chaka said on “TODAY”. “When I saw the introduction I said, ‘This is really real’ because we’ve just always learned to work hard for it. Sometimes we just don’t take the time to stop and smell our own roses … I have Milled on it just long enough to just make it an honor to be able to join the National Football League. “
While Chaka can’t wait to get to work, here are some things you should know about her:
What is Maia Chaka’s non-NFL job?
Chaka, a 2006 graduate of Norfolk State University, is a high school health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy, which is part of the Virginia Beach public school system. When she was 32 in the summer of 2014, she was one of 21 referees selected for the NFL’s Officiating Development Program. She was one of two women selected – the other was Thomas, who is from Brandon, Miss.
“There were a few Boy Scouts in the area who developed me as a civil servant throughout my college career,” Chaka told The Virginian Pilot seven years ago. “And because of my performance in college, they invited me to be part of the program.”
At the time, Dean Blandino’s then-NFL vice-president praised Chaka, saying she had “a great understanding of the game”. Also in the article, Blandino expressed confidence that Chaka would rise quickly through the program, much like Thomas.
“Maia has just worked her way up the ladder,” Blandino said then. “She has shown progress at all levels. We look forward to her continuing her career as a public official.”
Maia Chaka knows her performance is groundbreaking
Chaka recognizes the importance of achieving her new position in order to continue to open doors to more diversity in the attitudes of the NFL, in office and otherwise.
“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” said Chaka in a statement released by the league. “But this moment is greater than a personal achievement. It is an achievement for all women, my community and my culture.”
The importance of rewarding Chaka is not lost on Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations for the NFL.
“Maia’s years of hard work, dedication and perseverance – including through the NFL Officiating Development Program – have earned her a position as an NFL officer,” Vincent said in the statement. “As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Maia leads the way as the first black civil servant and inspires us to normalize women on the soccer field.”
What is Maia Chaka’s previous experience in office?
Chaka and Thomas made history together for Conference USA as two female officers on the same crew for the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
Chaka was the headline man for Pac-12 games last season. Her last assignment in that capacity was on January 30th at an all-star game for NFL scouts, Reese’s 2021 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
She was also named to an acting crew in the short-lived XFL revival in 2020 after working at Alliance of American Football games in 2019. Although 2021 will be her first NFL season appearance, Chaka already has four preseason games as part of the development program.