Maia Chaka has just made history!
On Friday’s broadcast of “Today,” the referee — who, in 2014, was one of only two women selected for an NFL officiating developmental program — was announced as the league’s first Black female official.
“It didn’t really hit me until just now,” Chaka told the morning show. “When I saw the introduction, I’m like, ‘This is really real,’ because this is just something that we’re just always taught to work hard for. Sometimes we just don’t take time to stop and smell our own roses.
“I’ve just been grinding for so long at this, it’s just an honor to be able to join the National Football League.”
Per “Today,” Chaka received the good news on March 1 from Wayne Mackie, who is the NFL’s vice president of officiating evaluation and development as well as Chaka’s mentor.
“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 it for so long, I just never thought the day would come. I just enjoyed working.”
Chaka is the second woman to become an NFL official after Sarah Thomas, who was named to her position in 2015 and became the first female referee to work in the Super Bowl this February.
In another 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,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations.
“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.”
Prior to her new position, Chaka refereed games for college football as well as the short-lived XFL.
For the past 10 years, she has also taught health and physical education at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I just want them to know if you have a passion for something and if have a drive for something, don’t let it hold you back just because you think that something may give you some type of limitation,” she told “Today” about her students.
“Just continue to work hard and always, always, always just follow your dreams.”