The NFL announced Friday that for the first time it had hired a Black woman to serve as a full-time on-field official.
Maia Chaka has been added to the league’s roster of game officials and will take the field when the 2021 season kicks off this fall.
"I am honored to be selected as an NFL official," Chaka said in a statement. "But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture."
NFL.com reports that Chaka is a health and PE teacher from Virginia Beach, Virginia. According to NBC News, Chaka has been training with the NFL since 2014, and has officiated games in the NCAA’s Pac-12 and Conference USA. She’s also officiated at the professional level in the XFL.
Chaka told NBC News that she hopes her new job shows her students that "if you have a passion for something or you have the drive for something, don’t let it hold you back just because you think that something may give you some type of limitation."
"Work hard, and always, always, always follow your dreams," she said.
Chaka’s hiring continues the NFL’s push to diversify its officiating crews. Chaka follows in the footsteps of Sarah Thomas — the league’s first full-time female official. In February, Thomas became the first woman to officiate in a Super Bowl.
In November, an officiating crew made up entirely of Black men refereed a Monday Night Football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams — the first time in the league’s 100-year history that an all-Black officiating crew had called a game.