As protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent in cities across the nation Friday night, the College Football Hall of Fame was caught in the middle of a chaotic scene in Atlanta as demonstrators inflicted heavy damage to the museum and looted merchandise from the retail gift shop.
The death of George Floyd
On Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, officers responded to a call of forgery in progress according to CNN. Officers were told the suspect, George Floyd, appeared to be under the influence and seated in a parked car. When officers found the man and approached him, according to police, Floyd “physically resisted” when asked to step out of the car.
Officers handcuffed Floyd, and video later showed a police officer kneeling on the arrested man’s neck as he pleaded with officers that he was struggling to breathe. Another officer stood by watching the incident as bystanders urged the officer to get off of his neck. Floyd died later that night.
The four officers involved in the situation, including the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, were all fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The winding journey of the College Football Hall of Fame
The College Football Hall of Fame was initially founded in 1951 by the National Football Foundation (NFF) to immortalize the players and coaches of college football. The initial location of the Hall was planned for Rutgers University, which was the site of the first modern football game. It never happened.
Strangely, the NFF took donations for years but never ever began construction. After investigations into the NFF’s finances were launched by both the New Jersey and New York Attorney Generals’ offices, the organization finally settled on a location and opened in Kings Mill, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, in 1978. Due to dwindling attendance, the museum closed in 1992.
South Bend, Indiana won the bid for the next location of the museum and opened its doors in 1995. Unfortunately, it met the same fate as the previous location with lackluster turnout. The South Bend location closed in 2012.
On August 23, 2014, the new $68.5 million museum opened in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and is located next to Centennial Olympic Park, and other nearby tourist attractions, including the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, CNN Center, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
College Football Hall of Fame damaged by protesters
On Friday night, demonstrators gathered in cities across the nation to protest the death of George Floyd. As the hours passed, protests turned violent in multiple cities including Minneapolis, New York City, and Atlanta.
In Atlanta, protesters smashed the Hall of Fame’s front windows and then proceeded to go inside and loot the gift shop.
“Protesters continue damaging businesses, looting and setting fire to buildings,” Atlanta Police Department Sgt. John Chafee said in a statement. “There has been looting at the College Football Hall of Fame … and many other businesses.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms denounced the violence in a Friday night press conference. “What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn’t do this to our city.”
College Football Hall of Fame CEO Kimberly Beaudin also commented on the damage to the facility.
“We support the peaceful protests that honor [Floyd’s] memory but unfortunately deteriorated into chaos and disorder. We are heartbroken to see the damage to our city and the Hall of Fame. As our Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, we are better than this, better than this as a city, better than this as a country.”
Beaudin told ESPN that damage was limited to the gift shop and protesters did not enter the museum attraction and no artifacts or displays were damaged.