VIRGINIA BEACH (WAVY) — Virginia Beach’s Maia Chaka has made history as the first-ever Black female official in the NFL.
The league made the announcement Friday morning on the Today Show.
Chaka is a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach. The 2006 Norfolk State University graduate has been working with at-risk youth there for the past decade and is a former teacher of the year.
“They’re probably going nuts,” Chaka said about her students and coworkers. “It’s a great thing I have my phone on silent because I know it’s blowing up right now.”
She’ll also be just the second woman ever to officiate an NFL regular season game. Sarah Thomas made history in 2015 and recently became the first female referee to work the Super Bowl.
Chaka and Thomas were actually the only two women selected for an NFL officiating developmental program seven years ago. Scouts picked up on Chaka’s talents while watching her officiate college games. She first started locally at the high school level.
The Today Show reports Chaka got the call that she was joining the ranks of NFL officials on March 1 from NFL vice president of officiating evaluation and development Wayne Mackie.
“He goes, ‘Welcome to the National Football League,’ and I just went nuts,” Chaka said. “I asked him, ‘Hey are you punking me, you’ve gotta be kidding me,’ because I’ve been at for so long I just never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.”
Chaka says overall her achievements are big for representation, especially for the kids at her school.
“The amazing thing about athletics period, it brings a lot of people together,” Chaka said on ESPN during an XFL broadcast last year. “And by me being a teacher at home, I teach at-risk youth at home in Virginia Beach, it gives those girls the opportunity to see okay I see my teacher can work with some people that don’t look like her and maybe that gives me the opportunity to work with people that don’t look like me also. So it increases diversity all around.”
Friday evening, Norfolk State University sent out a news release about Chaka’s history-making appointment.
Chaka has a bachelor’s degree from NSU and majored in health, physical education and exercise science. She also participated in the teacher’s certificate program and was a member of the Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science Majors Club.
“We are so very proud of Maia Chaka for the history she made today by becoming the first Black female referee in the National Football League,” Norfolk State University President Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston said in a prepared statement in the release. “She is a trailblazer, proudly representing NSU, Black women, and HBCUs. As I have learned more about Maia and her connection to NSU, her story should be one of inspiration for the entire Spartan community and for all women seeking careers in the sports entertainment industry.”
Adams-Gaston continued: “Maia has worked hard to accomplish her goal of becoming a professional referee. She participated in the NFL’s Officiating Development program and honed her skills on the collegiate level by officiating football games in Conference USA and the Pac-12. She did this all while serving as an educator to children in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system—this shows her heart and that she cares about her community. We are very happy for Maia and her family and proud she is a Spartan.”
Former NSU Athletics Director Marty Miller, who knew Chaka since her time as a student at NSU, said “she never gave up on her goal of becoming a professional game official.”
Miller said he has “watched her officiate several football games at the collegiate level and has seen her improve every year. She will be a great referee at the next level.”
You can watch the full Today Show segment below.