NFL line judge Maia Chaka becomes first black woman to officiate league game


NFL line judge Maia Chaka makes her regular season debut at Jets-Panthers game to become the first black woman to serve as an official in league history

  • Line judge Maia Chaka made history at Sunday’s Jets-Panthers game in Charlotte by becoming the first African-American woman to officiate an NFL game
  • By making her debut, the 38-year-old Rochester native also became just the third woman to officiate an NFL game, joining Sarah Thomas and Shannon Eastin
  • In addition to some preseason NFL experience, Chaka has also worked at the college level in the Pac-12 and Conference USA, and has worked in the XFL 
  • She was selected in 2014 for the NFL’s Officiating Development Program
  • According to Indeed.com, NFL officials make an annual salary of $205,000
  • NFL officials often maintain a separate full-time profession, and Chaka has pledged to continue working as a physical education teacher in Virginia Beach


NFL line judge Maia Chaka made history at Sunday’s Jets-Panthers game in Charlotte by becoming the first African-American woman to officiate a league 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 and pretty much master a craft of sport that I didn’t really play,’ Chaka said in a video the NFL posted on social media before Sunday’s game.

By making her debut on Sunday, the 38-year-old Rochester, New York native also became just the third woman to officiate an NFL game, joining Sarah Thomas and Shannon Eastin.

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NFL line judge Maia Chaka made history at Sunday’s Jets-Panthers game in Charlotte by becoming the first African-American woman to officiate a league game

By making her debut on Sunday, the 38-year-old Rochester, New York native also became just the third woman to officiate an NFL game, joining Sarah Thomas and Shannon Eastin

Line judge Maia Chaka stands on the field during the second half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New York Jets Sunday

By making her debut on Sunday, the 38-year-old Rochester, New York native also became just the third woman to officiate an NFL game, joining Sarah Thomas and Shannon Eastin

Line judge Maia Chaka, right, talks to side judge Greg Gautreaux during the second half

Line judge Maia Chaka, right, talks to side judge Greg Gautreaux during the second half

In addition to some preseason NFL experience, Chaka has worked at the college level in the Pac-12 and Conference USA, and has also officiated some XFL games.

She was selected in 2014 for the NFL’s Officiating Development Program, which identifies college officiating talent with the goal of teaching and evaluating potential candidates for league jobs.

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

NFL officials often maintain a full-time profession, and Chaka told The Undefeated in March that she plans to continue teaching.

‘My attendance has actually gone up,’ she said. ‘I have more kids attending classes. And in the online world, all their parents want to hop in on the Zoom session.’

Chaka enters the NFL after working in the Pac-12 and Conference USA. She also had some experience in the XFL (pictured)

Chaka enters the NFL after working in the Pac-12 and Conference USA. She also had some experience in the XFL (pictured) 

According to Indeed.com, NFL officials make an annual salary of $205,000. For comparison, the average non-NFL referee makes about $16.50 an hour, according to Indeed.

Chaka received significant support on social media, including a tweet from tennis legend and activist Billie Jean King.

‘History is being made in the #NFL today, as Maia Chaka has become the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game,’ King wrote. ‘See it, be it!’

Prior to officiating Sunday’s game, Chaka described her emotions to NFL.com heading into her debut.

‘When I step on the field for the first time as a NFL official, it’s gonna be a proud moment,’ Chaka said in a video shared by the league Sunday morning. ‘It’s a proud moment for myself, it’s a proud moment for my family. It’s a proud moment for my community and my students and my coworkers.

‘I’m just in awe and I can’t wait for that opening kick-off,’ she added.

Line judge Maia Chaka #22 stands on the field with tight end Donald Parham #49 of the Dallas Renegades and running back Dujuan Harris #33 of the Los Angeles Wildcats as she waits for play to resume at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 16, 2020 in Carson, California

Line judge Maia Chaka #22 stands on the field with tight end Donald Parham #49 of the Dallas Renegades and running back Dujuan Harris #33 of the Los Angeles Wildcats as she waits for play to resume at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 16, 2020 in Carson, California

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