Maia Chaka continues to make history in the NFL. After becoming the first Black woman referee in the NFL six months ago, Chaka crossed off another historic marker as she refereed her first NFL game on Sunday.
She served as a line judge in last weekend's matchup between the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers, which ended in an upset for the Jets as they fell to the Panthers 19-14.
“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,” she said in a video tweeted by the NFL.
"I'm just in awe and I just can't wait for that moment, you know, that opening kickoff. I can't wait to see how that's going to feel," she said in excitement ahead of the game.
ICYMI: Maia Chaka becomes first Black female official in NFL history today pic.twitter.com/YKUbnkRWhM— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 12, 2021
Chaka is the third on-field female official for the league, joining Sarah Thomas, the first permanent female game official, and Shannon Eastin, the first woman to officiate an NFL game. In addition to spending some time refereeing the NCAA's Pac-12 conference, Conference USA and a brief stint with Alliance of American Football, she also works off the field as a health and physical education teacher, Sporting News reported. Chaka works primarily with students who have unique needs at the Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She took home a Teacher of the Year award once, recognizing her dedication to her classroom.
According to CNN, Chaka is a product of the NFL's Officiating Development Program, which she joined in 2014. The program was designed to expose top officials to the same experiences NFL officials would take on during games to see if they can thrive in the environment. The NFL later announced her addition to the 2021 roster in March.
Chaka hopes the iconic moment will be a source of inspiration for others to follow their dreams.
“And hopefully that just gives somebody else, you know, some inspiration and empowers them to step outside the box and do something different,” she said.