Maia Chaka has made history as the first Black woman to officiate an NFL game.
She said ahead of Sunday’s game between the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers that it would be a proud moment.
“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.
She said she hopes she can inspire and empower others “to step outside the box and to do something different.” Chaka is the second woman hired as a full-time NFL official. The first was Sarah Thomas, who refereed the Super Bowl this year.
The NFL hired its first Black official, Burl Toler, in 1965.
When the announcement came in March that she would be added to the NFL officiating roster, Chaka 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 has made a career officiating college football and is a health and physical education teacher in Virginia Beach public schools. She joined the NFL’s Officiating Development Program in 2014.
The Undefeated reports that Chaka has the words “hustle, grind, conquer, dominate” on a wall in her office, and that her first dream as a kid was actually to be the first woman in the NBA.
This story originally published in the Morning Edition live blog.