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Hampton Roads Community News

NSU Welcomes News Of Alum As Black Female NFL Referee

Special To The New Journal and Guide

Norfolk State University’s third female President, Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, recently congratulated the first Black female NFL official in a statement she released.

Maia Chaka, a 2006 NSU graduate and a health and physical education teacher, was named among

National Football League’s roster of game officials for the 2021 as a referee.

When she begins her tenure during the next season, she’ll be just the second woman to wear the zebra stripes. Sarah Thomas, who worked last month’s Super Bowl, is the other.

“We are so very proud of Maia Chaka for the history she made today by becoming the first Black female referee in the National Football League. She is a trailblazer, proudly representing NSU, Black women, and HBCUs. As I have learned more about Maia and her connection to NSU, her story should be one of inspiration for the entire Spartan community and for all women seeking careers in the sports entertainment industry.”

Adams-Gaston also stated that “Maia has worked hard to accomplish her goal of becoming a professional

referee. She participated in the NFL’s Officiating Development program and honed her skills on the collegiate level by officiating football games in Conference USA and the Pac-12.”

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Chaka did this all, said the NSU President, while serving as an educator to children in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools system.

“This shows her heart and that she cares about her community. We are very happy for Maia and her family

and proud she is a Spartan.”

Chaka, who is originally from Rochester, New York, said that Norfolk State University is a special place to

her.

“I was able to see so many people of color who were smart and in successful positions…that was very

inspiring to me,” Chaka said. “The representation that I was able to see, both on and off-campus, helped to

fuel my drive to want to be successful.”

There are 32 NFL teams, employing some 1,696 players. Seventy percent of them are Black. Eighty percent of the Defensive players are Black.

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Michael Signora, Senior Vice President of Football & International Communications, said there are there are currently five Black referees (now that Chaka has been hired) and 40 Black game officials of 121 total.

The NFL hired its first Black official, Burl Tover, in 1965. He served as a head linesman in the league until 1980, including working Super Bowl XIV, becoming the first African American to officiate the league’s championship game. Johnny Grier became the league’s first Black referee in 1988.

According to league stats, over 70 percent of the players in the NFL are Black.

Former NSU Athletics Director Marty Miller, who has known Chaka since her time as a student at NSU, said “she never gave up on her goal of becoming a professional game official.”

Miller said he has “watched her officiate several football games at the collegiate level and has seen

her improve every year.”

“She will be a great referee at the next level. I’m so happy for Maia because she has worked very hard.”

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