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Maia Chaka 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 moment of pride.
“This historic moment is an honor for me and it is a privilege to have been chosen to represent women and women of color in America’s most popular sport, proving that I can challenge the odds and overcome,” Chaka said in a video posted by the NFL.
She said she hoped she could inspire and empower others “to think outside the box and do something different.” Chaka is the second woman to be 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 list of NFL officials, Chaka said she was personally honored.
“But this moment is more important than a personal accomplishment,” she said. “This is an accomplishment for all women, my community and my culture.”
Chaka has made a career as a college football referee and teaches health and physical education in Virginia Beach public schools. She joined the NFL Officials Development Program in 2014.
The Undefeated reports that Chaka has the words “push, crush, 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.