NFL’s First Black Female Official, Maia Chaka, Reportedly Departs League

by Gee NY
Maia Chaka is celebrated as the NFL's first Black female official.

Maia Chaka, renowned as the NFL’s first Black female on-field official, has parted ways with the league, as confirmed by six officiating sources.

Chaka made history in 2021 when she joined the NFL officiating crew, becoming the lone new official that season. While the circumstances of her departure remain undisclosed, there is speculation regarding whether it was a voluntary decision or not.

Despite attempts to reach out to Chaka for clarification, Football Zebras reports its reporters did not receive a response.

It’s unusual for NFL officials to exit the league within the first few seasons. There’s a recognition within the league that it typically takes about five years for an official to fully acclimate to NFL standards.

In the current collective bargaining agreement, the NFL agreed to a moratorium on union grievances related to terminations, in exchange for enhanced development resources for newer officials. However, there’s a prevailing sentiment that while the league fulfilled its obligations on paper, practical implementation fell short.

During her three seasons in the NFL, Chaka served as a line judge on Clay Martin’s crew for two seasons before transitioning to Ron Torbert’s crew last season. She notably wore jersey number 100, previously donned by Tom Symonette, who officiated at the line of scrimmage from 2004 to 2020.

Sources suggest that Chaka will return to officiating in a Power 5 conference next year, though it’s unlikely to be the Pac-12 conference where she previously officiated.

Chaka’s journey into NFL officiating was influenced by the late Wayne Mackie, who was the vice president of officiating development at the time of her hiring. She participated in the development program named in his honor for five seasons.

Since 2014, seven officials hired after the establishment of the Mackie Development Program have left the NFL, with three departures confirmed as voluntary or due to injury. The MDP serves as the recruitment pipeline through which all new hires must pass.

If Chaka’s departure was involuntary, it suggests that, despite her groundbreaking achievements, she wasn’t immune to the same pressures faced by other officials.

The conclusion of the 2023 season saw the retirement announcements of down judge Jim Mello, line judge Mark Perlman, and field judge Tom Hill.

Last week, the NFL revealed the hiring of five officials, four at the line of scrimmage, and one as a deep wing official.

This aligns with the reported departures and suggests a potential need for additional hires to fill leadership positions in the officiating department.

Karina Tovar’s appointment as a deep official marks the fourth woman to officiate on-field in the NFL, maintaining the number of women officials at three.

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