HBCU graduate Maia Chaka made her debut Sunday as an NFL game official, becoming the first Black woman hired by the organization to officiate a game.
“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,” said Chaka in a video tweeted by the NFL
As reported by Black Enterprise, Chaka, a graduate of Norfolk State University, officiated the New York Jets/Carolina Panthers game in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was promoted to the position after previously working with the Pac-12, Conference USA and the XFL.
Per the report, she was hired by for the NFL official position in March 2021. Her mentor, NFL vice president of officiating evaluation and development Wayne Mackie, a former 10-year NFL official, delivered the news to her.
“I asked him, ‘Hey are you punking me?’” Chaka said, Today reports. ‘“You’ve gotta be kidding me.’ Because I’ve been at it for so long, I just never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.
“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 a sport that I didn’t really play but I have a love and a passion for,” Chaka said in a social media statement. “And hopefully that just gives somebody else, you know, some inspiration and empowers them to step outside the box and do something different.”
Her school also praised Chaka while speaking to USA Today.
“We have a saying here, that ‘Great dreams need great teachers,’ ” said Dr. Aaron Spence, the superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools. “She exemplifies that and is, quite frankly, a role model for so many people. For our young women who we hope can see what she has been able to accomplish because of her commitment to her career both as a teach and in athletics, to our African-American students — she’s an inspiration. We’re just so very proud of her.”
Chaka, who is a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy in Charlottesville Virginia, hopes to inspire her students to “work hard and always, always, always just follow your dreams.”
“I just want them to know if you have a passion for something and if have a drive for something, don’t let it hold you back just because you think that something may give you some type of limitation,” Chaka said.
“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,” said Chaka of her new NFL gig.