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The NFL is quickly setting new milestones with the hiring of Maia Chaka as a field official for the 2021 season. She will be the first black woman to officiate an NFL game. Chaka was officially announced in an NBC segment Today Display.
The hiring comes just months after the first all-black crew was assigned to an NFL game and barely a month removed from the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. Chaka will join judge Sarah Thomas as the second NFL field official. There are two additional women in the replay booths as well as three women assisting in the central replay center.
Chaka said Today she got a call from development supervisor Wayne Mackie on March 1. Mackie was the vice president of development during her time on the program. Walt Anderson was hired as Senior Vice President of Development and Officials Education in January 2020, with Mackie still working in development. (NBC reports that Mackie still holds the vice president title, which Football Zebras has not confirmed.) Mackie has been Chaka’s mentor for many years, so the call was not unusual, but she thought it was ‘he was joking when he slipped into the conversation, “Welcome to the National Football League.”
“And I just went crazy,” Chaka said in the interview. “I asked him, ‘Hey, are you punishing me? You laugh.’ Because I’ve been there for so long, I never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.
Chaka has been in the league’s development pipeline since 2014. She was on the Referee Development Program roster for four seasons, and apparently dropped out after 2017. With a change in referee leadership in development, she got a second look and returned to the program in 2020, which was quite a virtual exercise due to the pandemic. She worked in the Senior Bowl in January, a game the NFL selects from the college officials it assesses.
“I’ve been working on this for so long, it’s just an honor to be able to join the National Football League,” said Chaka. Today.
Chaka served at Conference USA for several years until she joined the Pac-12 last season.
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said in a statement, “Maia’s years of hard work, dedication and perseverance – including through the Officials Development Program of the NFL – Earned him a job as NFL official. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Maia is pioneering as the first black official woman and inspiring us to normalize women on the soccer field.
While in the developmental program, she worked four NFL preseason games (this is how we have a pic with her wearing an NFL hat) under referees John Parry, Jerome Boger , John Hussey and Carl Cheffers. She was a linesman in the Alliance of American Football in their 2019 short season and in the XFL in their 2020 short season. In the XFL, she was one of six women, which ensured that every game of the XFL had at least one woman officiating on the field.
In addition to his refereeing duties, Chaka is a professor of health and physical education in Virginia Beach, Virginia.