Maia Chaka is the first, but certainly should not be the last.
On Sunday, Chaka became the first Black woman to officiate an official NFL game when the Jets kicked off their game against the Panthers at 1 p.m.
“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 league 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.
“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,” Chaka continued, “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, 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.”
Chaka had also officiated some of the league’s preseason games this summer.
Chaka, 38, grew up in Rochester. Prior to being hired by the NFL, she was working as a high school health and physical education teacher for at-risk teens at the Rennaisance Academy in Virginia — which she committed to doing even when officiating Pac-12 games last season. She told The Undefeated back in March she still planned to continue working as a teacher until she’s ready to retire and that attendance in his classes have improved since her students found out via social media she’d been hired by the NFL.
“My attendance has actually gone up. I have more kids attending classes,” Chaka said. “And in the online world, all their parents want to hop in on the Zoom session.”
Latest National Sports
Chaka had been part of the league’s Officiating Development Program since 2014. And on March, the NFL came calling and extended an offer of employment to her to become an on-field official. Chaka joins Sarah Thomas as the only two women referees in the NFL.