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NFL Hires First Black Female Member of Officiating Team

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Maia Chaka. Photo: courtesy photo

By Fred Cromartie, Ed.D. |

The NFL hired its first Black official, Burl Toler, in 1965 and its first full time female official, Sarah Thomas, in 2015. Now, the NFL has taken another historic step in hiring Maia Chaka as the first Black woman to be part of its officiating team.

The NFL made the announcement Friday morning on the TODAY show ahead of a live interview with Chaka.

“It didn’t really hit me until just now when I saw the introduction,” Chaka, who has been working Pac-12 Conference games, told TODAY. “I’m like, this is really real. This is something that we’re always taught to work hard for and sometimes we just don’t take time to stop and smell our own roses. And I’ve just been grinding for so long in this. It’s an honor to be able to join the National Football League.”

In a statement released by the league, Chaka said: “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.”

“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,” Troy Vincent, Sr., NFL executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement. “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.”

The NFL continues to diversify its officiating and its coaching ranks. In 2020, the league celebrated its first game with an all-Black officiating crew. Also, six women were part of the 14 coaching staffs that made it to the playoffs last season.

Maia Chaka is a graduate of Norfolk State, having earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 2006. She is a health and physical education teacher in the Virginia Beach public school system.

Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.

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