HBCU Grad Becomes the NFL’s First Black Woman Referee

by March 10, 2021

Maia Chaka, a graduate from Norfolk State University, has made history by becoming the first Black woman to referee an NFL game since 1920 when the league was founded.

“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.”

Chaka earned her Bachelor’s degree in education at Norfolk State University in 2006. She is currently a health and physical education teacher at Renaissance Academy where she teaches at-risk youth. Since 2006, she has also been officiating games from high school to college.

In 2014, Chaka started making history as one of the first women officials to work an FBS bowl game. She used to be a referee for NFL preseason games, now she will be a referee for regular-season games.

“It didn’t really hit me until just now,” Chaka said on The Today 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.”

Chaka hopes to encourage young people, especially her students to reach for their dreams.

“I just want them to know if you have a passion for something and if you 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 said. “Just continue to work hard and always, always, always just follow your dreams.”

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