Seven years ago, Maia Chaka was handpicked to participate in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program. And because Black women are resilient, magical beings, she’s now making history as the first Black woman to join the league’s officiating roster.
Per Today, Chaka received the call that would change her life on March 1. Wayne Mackie, the NFL’s vice president of officiating evaluation and development, also happens to be a mentor of hers. So when her phone rang, she thought it was just to catch up.
“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.”
Well, now she’ll enjoy working as an NFL referee.
“I’ve just been grinding for so long at this,” she said. “It’s just an honor to be able to join the National Football League.”
In 2014, the Virginia-based P.E. teacher was recruited to participate in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program after she caught the eye of scouts while officiating college football games. In the time since, she’s officiated NFL preseason games, in the recently resuscitated XFL, and for the Pac-12.
“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.”
And for those looking to either break their own barriers or follow in her footsteps, she has some words of advice.
“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 said. “Just continue to work hard and always, always, always just follow your dreams.”
Sounds like sound advice to me.