NFL picks its first Black female game official

Maia Chaka will make history when the new National Football League season starts this year.

The NFL said Friday it has added Chaka to its roster of game officials for 2021, making her the league’s first Black woman named to the position.

Chaka, a Virginia educator and erstwhile college football game official, says she’s honored to be selected, but that this is also “bigger than a personal accomplishment.”

“It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture,” Chaka said in a statement released by the league.

Chaka, previously a game official in the NCAA’s Pac-12 Conference and Conference USA, also officiated in the short-lived Alliance of American Football in 2019. She entered the NFL’s Officiating Development Program in 2014.

The league says the program offers top officiating prospects in the collegiate ranks “exposure to in-game experiences that NFL officials face, to determine if they have the ability to succeed.”

“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,” Troy Vincent Sr., NFL executive vice president of football operations, 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,” Vincent said.

Off the football field, Chaka is a health and physical education teacher in the Virginia Beach public school system.

Her selection by the NFL comes six years after the league made Sarah Thomas its first permanent female game official.

Thomas became the first female to officiate an NFL playoff game in 2019, and the first female on a Super Bowl officiating crew this year.