It's always an exciting story with someone from upstate New York works at their craft for years, and finally makes it "big" and turns professional.

It's an even greater story, however, when the person who "makes it big" blazes a trail for the generations to come.

Meet Maia Chaka, a native of Rochester, who is doing just that, by serving as the National Football League's first black female referee in 2021.

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Chaka Has Been Reffing Lower Level Games for Years

Based on a newspaper clipping obtained from Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle, Chaka has been serving as a football referee since at least 2006.

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In 2011, the newspaper asserts that Chaka moved up the ranks, beginning to work at the collegiate football level, in Division I-A and III.


Her Work Ethic Propelled Her to the Top of the College Game

Chaka continued to work in the college ranks through the 2020-21 season, where she served as the head linesman in the Pac-12 conference. All the while, Chaka was a member of the NFL's Official Development Program, a program that, according to NPR, she had been a member of since 2014.

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Her work has propelled her to the top of the college officiating game, including her last season, which saw her work the 2021 Senior Bowl. When the fall of 2021 came around, however, it appeared another step had been taken.


Chaka Made Her NFL Debut in the Fall of 2021

On September 12, 2021, Chaka suited up as the line judge for the game between the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.

In a game that featured Sam Darnold seeking revenge against the team that drafted him, it was Chaka that stole the headlines, and rightfully so. In working that game, Rochester's Maia Chaka became the first black female to referee an NFL football game. She also became just the third female to work as an on-field official, joining Shannon Eastin and Sarah Thomas.

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Chaka has remained on a referee crew all season long, lead by seventh-year official, Clay Martin. She'll be in Cleveland this weekend, officiating the Browns-Lions game, and continuing to set a new standard for referees in the National Football League.

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