Maia Chaka, a Norfolk State University graduate and Virginia Beach teacher, on Sunday became the first Black female referee to work an NFL game.
Chaka was the line judge in Carolina’s victory over the New York Jets — six months after she was promoted to full-time NFL official.
Chaka is the second woman to officiate an NFL game after Sarah Thomas, who became an NFL official in 2015 and worked the most recent Super Bowl.
“When I step on the field for the first time as a NFL official, it’s gonna be a proud moment,” Chaka said in a video shared by the NFL on Sunday morning. “It’s a proud moment for myself, it’s a proud moment for my family. It’s a proud moment for my community and my students and my coworkers.”
Chaka, 38, has been a teacher with Virginia Beach Public Schools for more than a decade. Chaka recently joined the An Achievable Dream staff as Student and Program Success Coordinator at Lynnhaven Middle School. Chaka previously taught health and physical education at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach for more than 14 years.
Chaka started her officiating career working high school games in Hampton Roads and also worked collegiately in the Pac-12 Conference and Conference USA.
In 2014, she and Thomas were the first female officials to work a Football Bowl Subdivision game — the Fight Hunger Bowl between Brigham Young and Washington. She’s also officiated in the XFL and Alliance of American Football.
Chaka progressed through The NFL Officiating Development Program and in March was promoted to full-time official.
“This historic moment to me is an honor and it’s a privilege that I’ve been chosen to represent women and women of color in the most popular sport in America, proving that I can defy the odds and overcome and pretty much master a craft of sport a sport that I didn’t really play,” Chaka said on Sunday’s video, “but I have a love and passion for and hopefully that just gives someone else some inspiration and empowers them to step outside the box and do something different. I’m just in awe and I can’t wait for that opening kick-off.”
Jami Frankenberry, 757-446-2376, firstname.lastname@example.org