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Past the Glass Ceiling – The Rise of NFL Trailblazers Jennifer King and Maia Chaka


Erick McNair

For over a century, the NFL has captivated followers with its gripping on-field performances. However past the lights and glory, many untold tales have remained within the shadows. This month, we shine a lightweight on two girls who persevered in opposition to all odds to interrupt obstacles as the primary females of their NFL teaching and officiating roles—Jennifer King and Maia Chaka. Their tales, set in opposition to the backdrop of a sport steeped in custom and masculinity, should not simply accounts of private triumph however beacons of progress, symbolizing a big shift in direction of inclusivity and variety in skilled soccer. 

Maia Chaka: The Educator with a Imaginative and prescient 

 Born in Rochester, New York, Maia Chaka’s journey is one among exceptional transitions, from an influential educator to creating NFL historical past as its first Black feminine on-field official. A graduate of Edison Profession & Expertise Excessive College and Norfolk State College, Chaka launched into a profession aimed toward molding younger minds as a well being and bodily schooling trainer in Virginia Seashore.  

With over 14 years at Renaissance Academy in Virginia Seashore, Virginia, Chaka devoted her life to the empowerment and improvement of at-risk college students. She views her high-profile promotion to the NFL as a teachable second for her college students, telling USA TODAY Sports activities, “What I need them to get out of it’s, No. 1, you see any person that you simply interact with day by day make it to the best degree. That must be motivation for you. It’s actually essential that they’ve illustration proper in entrance of them.”  

Her strategy to schooling, characterised by fostering vanity, educational achievement, and stepping outdoors consolation zones, displays her perception within the transformative energy of illustration and mentorship. Via initiatives like G.E.M.S. (Ladies with Empowering Minds and Spirits) and the Achievable Dream Academy, Chaka has not solely been an educator but in addition a catalyst for constructive change within the lives of her college students. 

Parallel to her academic profession, Chaka’s love for soccer guided her to the world of officiating, beginning with highschool video games in Virginia in 2007. Her journey from officiating the Virginia State Excessive College Championship Recreation in 2009 to becoming a member of Convention USA as a Division I soccer official in 2011 showcased her distinctive ability and tenacity. Her officiating prowess was additional acknowledged when she joined the NFL’s Officiating Growth Program in 2014, a pivotal step in direction of her historic appointment within the league. In 2021, Chaka shattered a big barrier, changing into the primary Black lady to officiate an NFL sport—a landmark achievement marking her entry into the annals of NFL historical past and paving the way in which for future generations of girls in sports activities officiating. 

Jennifer King’s Journey from Multi-sport Athlete to NFL Coach 

First Black feminine assistant coach within the NFL

Jennifer King’s story is a story of ambition, excellence, and trailblazing management. Her athletic journey started at Guilford Faculty in Greensboro, North Carolina, the place she excelled each academically and as a standout basketball participant. King’s prowess on the court docket transitioned right into a profitable teaching profession, notably main her crew to a USCAA Division II Nationwide Championship. Her achievements in basketball underscored her strategic acumen and skill to encourage, traits that seamlessly transferred to her groundbreaking function in soccer. 

King’s ardour for soccer led her from the basketball court docket to the soccer area, taking a big step as an offensive assistant at Dartmouth Faculty. This function highlighted her versatile teaching expertise and set the stage for her historic journey within the NFL. Her time enjoying for the Ladies’s Soccer Alliance groups, together with the D.C. Divas and the championship-winning New York Sharks, offered invaluable expertise and perception into the intricacies of the sport.  

King’s stint with the D.C. Divas was not nearly private accolades or on-field success; it was additionally a interval of studying and management. Being a part of a crew with a powerful profitable custom and a aggressive tradition allowed King to soak up priceless classes in teamwork, technique, and the psychological toughness required to compete on the highest ranges. These experiences have been instrumental in shaping King’s strategy to teaching, emphasizing the significance of preparation, adaptability, and the cultivation of a profitable mindset. 

In 2016, King grew to become the primary Black feminine assistant coach within the NFL, employed by the Arizona Cardinals. Regardless of doubts from some that her function was solely for range, King was decided to show her value by onerous work and making ready gamers to be their greatest. Broad receiver Larry Fitzgerald commented, “Coach King is a proficient coach. Interval. She earned everyone’s respect along with her information of the sport.” 

However King stresses that her function goes past being the “first”—it’s about displaying younger folks from all backgrounds that with dedication and grit, you may obtain your goals. She advises aspiring coaches, “Don’t let concern of failure cease you from following your ardour. Go the place you imagine your expertise and information will be utilized, whether or not that’s within the NFL or elsewhere.” 

Inspiring Future Generations 

Past their historic achievements within the NFL, Chaka and King have set new precedents for ladies in sports activities, difficult longstanding norms and opening doorways for future generations. Their legacies, characterised by breaking obstacles and setting benchmarks, proceed to encourage and pave the way in which for aspiring athletes, coaches, and officers. 

Chaka and King’s contributions prolong past their roles within the NFL. Their dedication to group empowerment, schooling, and management exemplifies the profound affect people can have after they transcend conventional boundaries. Via their pioneering achievements and off-field initiatives, they’ve demonstrated that management, coupled with imaginative and prescient, can impact significant change. 


The tales of Maia Chaka and Jennifer King illuminate the infinite prospects that come up when obstacles are dismantled, and paths are paved for individuals who dare to dream.  Sponsored by the NFL, EVERFI’s 306: Black Historical past course goals to domesticate understanding, encourage crucial pondering, and foster a tradition of inclusivity and variety, very similar to the affect Chaka and King have had inside skilled soccer. As we have fun their achievements and the transformative energy of their narratives, we’re reminded of the significance of perseverance, management, and the pursuit of equality. By spotlighting these trailblazers, we not solely acknowledge their contributions to the NFL but in addition underscore the importance of making alternatives that champion range and encourage future generations to interrupt obstacles in each area of endeavor. 

Click on right here to entry and obtain EVERFI’s Black Historical past Toolkit and take step one in direction of making a extra inclusive and empowering academic expertise for college kids in every single place. 



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Ferguson, J. (2022, February 2). First all-Black crew officiates a area and replay at an NFL sport. Sports activities Illustrated. https://www.si.com/school/hbcu/soccer/first-all-black-crew-officiates-field-replay-at-nfl-game 

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Johnson, C. (2020, January 24). Jennifer King makes historical past as Bears’ first full-time feminine coach. Chicago Bears. https://www.chicagobears.com/information/jennifer-king-makes-history-as-bears-first-female-coach 

McCarthy, B. (2023, October 18). NFL, MLB girls coaches 2023: Trainers like Jennifer King, Erin Roberge pave the way in which. ACME Packing Firm. https://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2023/10/18/23920304/nfl-mlb-women-coaches-2023-trainers-jennifer-king-erin-roberge 

NFL. (2021, September 13). First look: Maia Chaka prepares for historic debut as NFL’s first black feminine official [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/ScWZ_MFm67c?si=3rpVLk9S4x997ioe 

NFL. (2021, September 13). NFL publicizes Maia Chaka as the primary black feminine on-field official [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/zmZ2tccY8BM?si=ijl73KIehV0fGZlj 

NFL. (2021, February 2). Washington Soccer Crew Coach Jennifer King, former Raiders CEO Amy Trask on altering the sport [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wn9hBR_p-rs 

NFL. (2022, February 17). Weekend Heat Up |  YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/reside/cDD2v_b9meE?si=yKjFHdZX71gR6do5 

Farrington, Dana. (2021, September 13). Maia Chaka turns into 1st black lady to officiate NFL sport. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/09/13/1036580405/maia-chaka-first-black-woman-officiate-nfl-game 

Rhoden, E. (2020, January 15). Watch: Jennifer King talks historic NFL run, motivation and extra. Essence. https://www.essence.com/information/watch-jennifer-king-talks-historic-nfl-run-more/ 

Frankenberry, Jami. (N.D.). Meet Maia Chaka: The Virginia Seashore trainer who grew to become the NFL’s first Black feminine referee. AOL. https://www.aol.com/virginia-beach-teacher-maia-chaka-135600676.html 

Valenzuela, Sarah (N.D.). Maia Chaka formally makes historical past because the NFL’s first Black feminine referee. AOL. https://www.aol.com/maia-chaka-officially-makes-history-191900357.html 

Weinman, G. (2021, November 5). Jennifer King amongst 100 most influential Black girls in America. Sports activities Illustrated. https://www.si.com/nfl/commanders/information/washington-football-team-coach-jennifer-king-veterans-day-message-antonio-gibson-christian-mccaffrey-jd-mckissic-jaret-patterson-wft-nfl-news 


Concerning the Writer: 

Erick, a Senior Supervisor on the Buyer Advertising and marketing crew at EVERFI, holds a grasp’s diploma in Sports activities Administration from Georgetown College. With over a decade of expertise within the sports activities and media sector, Erick has cultivated a deep-seated ardour for making a significant distinction in marginalized or underrepresented communities. Earlier than becoming a member of EVERFI, Erick labored for Occasions DC, Washington, DC’s Sports activities & Conference Authority. He now helps EVERFI’s sports activities partnerships crew, spearheading advertising and marketing and occasion initiatives that interact college students round crucial matters together with character schooling, psychological wellness, and STEM. 

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