HBCU Alum Maia Chaka is the First and Only Black Woman NFL Referee

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 01: Line Judge Maia Chaka (100) looks on during the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Commanders on October 1, 2023, at Lincoln Financial Field. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Maia Chaka made history in 2021 when she became the first black woman to be hired as an NFL referee. Chaka is an alum of Norfolk State University; an HBCU located in Norfolk, VA. Post-college, she became a PE teacher while simultaneously beginning to officiate high school games. Eventually, she began officiating at the collegiate level where she was invited to the NFL’s Mackie Development Program (MDP), named after longtime NFL ref. Wayne Mackie. The MDP is considered to have the most prestigious non-NFL referees who could move up from the program at any time.

Chaka made her official debut on September 12, 2021, where she officiated the New York Jets vs Carolina Panthers game. She also made history again in December 2023; as she was a part of the first all-black officiating team on the field and replay crew for the week 14 LA Chargers vs Las Vegas Raiders match. 

Chaka is continuing to make a difference in the community as she also founded Make Meaningful Change – a nonprofit whose mission is to make an impact on the advancement of marginalized communities through education, mentoring, and workshops.

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