Connect with us


Trailblazing official Maia Chaka is out of the NFL

Line judge Maia Chaka reportedly returning to college football



Line judge

Football Zebras exclusive

Maia Chaka, the first Black woman hired as an on-field official in the NFL, has left the league according to six officiating sources.

Chaka was hired in 2021 as the only new official that season, after the officiating department had a second wave of hires in 2020 on account of pandemic-related opt-outs by veteran officials. There isn’t official word if Chaka’s separation from the NFL was voluntary or not. Football Zebras reached out twice to Chaka, but did not receive a response.

Officials are not typically let go by the NFL in the first few seasons, an acknowledgement of the longstanding barometer that it takes the average official 5 years to fully get up to speed in the NFL. In the current collective bargaining agreement, the NFL was able to negotiate a moratorium on union grievances against terminations in exchange for increased development resources for newer officials. The prevailing opinion is that the league met their obligation on paper, but has not delivered in practical terms.

In her three seasons in the NFL, she worked the line judge position on Clay Martin’s crew for two seasons before switching to Ron Torbert’s crew last season. She wore number 100, previously worn by Tom Symonette, who also worked the line of scrimmage from 2004 to 2020.

A source said that Chaka will return to a Power 5 conference next year, although the Pac-12 conference, from where she last worked, is very likely not her destination.

Chaka was the protégée of the late Wayne Mackie, who was the vice president of officiating development when she was hired. She was in the development program that now bears his name for five seasons. Seven officials hired after 2014 — the year following the creation of the Mackie Development Program — have left the NFL, three of those are known to be voluntary or due to injury. The MDP is the recruitment pipeline through which all new hires must pass.

If the termination was not voluntary, it underscores that, despite the celebrated milestones of her hire, she was not sheltered from sanctions that hit other officials.

There were three announced retirements at the end of the 2023 season: down judge Jim Mello, line judge Mark Perlman, and field judge Tom Hill. The NFL announced last week that 5 officials were being hired, 4 at the line of scrimmage, and 1 deep wing. This aligns with the four departures plus an extra line of scrimmage official could be as an additional swing official. It is possible that, in the re-staffing of the leadership positions in the officiating department that another official or two will be a late departure, necessitating additional officials to be hired. This breaks a stretch of unprecedented turnover, as departures were in double digits for the first time in consecutive off-seasons (2022 and 2023).

The NFL hired Karina Tovar as a deep official, the fourth woman to officiate on-field in the NFL, which will keep the number of women officials at three.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

Continue Reading


  1. Bill

    April 24, 2024 at 6:51 pm

    She wasn’t a trailblazer. She got fired. Never worked a playoff game.

  2. Anonymous

    April 25, 2024 at 10:26 am

    So I guess the diversity hire wasn’t qualified.

  3. Anonymous

    April 25, 2024 at 6:05 pm

    My guess is that she was the lowest rated official in the league for each of her three seasons, and she was likely put on notice before last season that significant improvement was needed or she would be out.

Post a comment using, Twitter, Facebook, or Google account:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.