When Rochester’s Maia Chaka was added to the NFL roster of game officials for the 2021 season last Friday she made history as the first Black woman ever named to the NFL’s officiating staff.
“I am honored to be selected as an NFL official,” Chaka said. “But this moment is bigger than a personal accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for all women, my community, and my culture.”
Chaka enters the NFL after an outstanding collegiate officiating career, including stints in the Pac-12 Conference and Rochester Conference USA.
In 2014, he was selected for the NFL’s Officiating Development Program, which identifies top collegiate officiating talent to expose them to some of the same experiences as NFL officials, working to determine if they have the ability to succeed as an NFL official.
“Maia’s years of hard work, dedication and perseverance – including as part of the NFL Officiating Development Program – have earned her a position as an NFL official,” said Troy Vincent Sr, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. “As we celebrate Women’s History Month, Maia is a trailblazer as the first Black female official and inspires us toward normalizing women on the football field.”
Chaka, 38, has spent more than 14 years teaching health and physical education at Renaissance Academy, an alternative education school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that caters to the needs of at-risk students.. A graduate of Norfolk State University, Chaka earned her bachelor’s in education in 2006 before embarking on two careers at once – her teaching and officiating careers.
Maia (pronounced my-eeah) was born and raised in Rochester and as a young girl loved football. She spent many days at the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester playing football with the boys.
I recall back in the Spring 1996. My brother Clifton Warren Jones and his wife Deborah Jones had just arrived from Tampa Florida. While I was helping them with their luggage Cliff asked me who was the young girl in my driveway basketball court crossing over the boys with serious basketball moves. I told him that’s Maia Chaka, Terry Chaka’and Gerald Chaka’s daughter, (Cliff worked with Terry in Buffalo during their college days). Cliff told Terry that he had never seen a young lady of her age with such desire, determination, tenacity, physical ability, and strong skill set.
Cliff said that Maia would probably be the first woman basketball player to make it in the NBA.
Maia was only 13 years old at the time, and my brother was not too far off on his projection.
Maia’s mother Terry Chaka is a graduate of Buffalo State College and still has strong ties to Buffalo, especially the cultural community.
Tremendously proud of her daughter’s accomplishments she had some good words of advice for parents reading this article.
“When a parent recognizes their child has a gift or is passionate about something, it is important to help that child explore all opportunities around their passion. In the case of young athletes, try to attend every game and tournament. Take advantage of special focus sports camps that will develop skills and discipline. No dream is too big”.
It’s been a long road and Maia Chaka has withstood the test of time and remained focused on being the best official possible and has been rewarded with an elite opportunity.
But true to form, Maia is not just thinking about herself or her personal accomplish, no mater how historic.
“Hopefully I’m not the last one hired and that there will be more coming soon,” said Chaka. “I want to do everything I can to make sure more women follow what I did,” she told a national reporter.
Go get’em Maia and all the best!
Congratulations to you and your family from the Challenger Community News Family!