NFL announces its first Black female official

'It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture,' said Maia Chaka

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The NFL has announced that for the first time ever, they’ve named a Black woman as an official.

Maia Chaka, a health and physical education teacher in Virginia Beach, has made history as the first Black woman to take to the field during an NFL game. Chaka has been a part of the NFL Officiating Developing Program since 2014 and has officiated on the college level.

Referee Maia Chaka officiates while the Salt Lake Stallions and the San Diego Fleet play in the Alliance of American Football game at SDCCU Stadium on March 09, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/AAF/Getty Images)

Chaka is a 2006 graduate of Norfolk State University with a Bachelor’s degree in education and previously had stints in the Pac-12 Conference and Conference USA, according to NFL Football Operations.

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“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official but this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture,” Chaka said in an official statement.

The NFL hired its first Black official, Burl Toler in 1965. He later officiated for 15 seasons, including the 1980 Super Bowl XIV. According to NPR, 40 of the NFL’s 212 game officials were Black men as of last November.

The league appointed its first full-time female official, Sarah Thomas, in 2015. NFL’s Women Officiating Now (WON), launched in 2013 in partnership with Football Officiating Academy (FOA), aspires to “introduce more women to football officiating and see more women working as officials nationwide.”

Troy Vincent, Sr., NFL executive vice president of football operations, commended Chaka for her dedication.

“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,” Vincent 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.”

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During an appearance on the TODAY Show on Friday, Chaka said the moment “didn’t really hit me until just now when I saw the introduction. I’m like, ‘This is really real.'”

“We’re just always taught to work hard for and sometimes we just don’t take the time to stop and smell our own roses,” Chaka said. “I’ve just been grinding for so long at this – it’s just an honor to be able to join the National Football League.”

When reflecting on the moment she received the news, she said, “I just went nuts.”

“I said, ‘Hey, are you punking me? You gotta be kidding just because I’ve been at it for so long and I just never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.”

Chaka sent an encouraging message to her students to follow their passion and not allow the limitations to stop them.

“Continue to work hard and always, always, always follow your dreams.”

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