Maia Chaka Makes History as First Black Woman to Officiate an NFL Game

Chaka became the third on-field female official in the NFL, joining Sarah Thomas, the first permanent female game official, and Shannon Eastin, who was the first woman to officiate an NFL game.

Maia Chaka made history as the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game when she took the field on Sept. 12 in the New York Jets-Carolina Panthers 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, proving that I can defy the odds and overcome,” Chaka said in a video released by the NFL.


Chaka hopes to inspire and empower others “to step outside the box and to do something different.” She is the second woman hired as a full-time NFL official — the first full-time hire being Sarah Thomas, who officiated the Super Bowl earlier this year. Shannon Eastin was the first woman to officiate an NFL game, however, she was not a full-time hire.

The first-ever Black official was Burl Toler, who was hired in 1965. Chaka’s announcement came in March and she said she was personally honored. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment,” she said. “It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”

Chaka entered the NFL’s Officiating Development Program in 2014, a program that is designed to offer top officiating prospects in the collegiate ranks “exposure to in-game experiences that NFL officials face, to determine if they have the ability to succeed,” according to the NFL.

Image source: Sporting News