College Football Hall of Fame damaged by protesters

College Football HOF damaged by protesters (0:49)

Mark Schlabach reports the latest on the College Football Hall of Fame after it was damaged Friday night by protesters. (0:49)

The College Football Hall of Fame was damaged and looted during violent protests in Atlanta on Friday night, police confirmed in a statement.

The Hall of Fame, which is located near the CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, was near the epicenter of demonstrations over George Floyd's death. Floyd, who was black, died while in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this week.

Protesters smashed the Hall of Fame's front windows and looted its gift shop during the demonstrations.

"Protesters continue damaging businesses, looting and setting fire to buildings," Atlanta police Sgt. John Chafee said in a statement Saturday morning. "There has been looting at the College Football Hall of Fame ... and many other businesses. We are grateful for the assistance being provided by multiple local and state law enforcement partners as we work to minimize the damage being caused by these individuals and to restore order in our city."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms condemned the violence during a news conference on Friday night. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to the city.

"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," Bottoms said at a news conference. "A protest has purpose. When Dr. King was assassinated, we didn't do this to our city. If you want change in America, go and register to vote. ... That is the change we need in this country."

In a statement, College Football Hall of Fame CEO Kimberly Beaudin said she was "heartbroken" to see the damage. The Hall of Fame moved from South Bend, Indiana, to a $68.5 million facility in Atlanta in 2014.

"We support the peaceful protests that honor [Floyd's] memory but unfortunately deteriorated into chaos and disorder," Beaudin said. "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.

"In the coming days and weeks, we'll work to pick up the pieces to rebuild the sacred walls that housed memories and honored those who played the game, many of whom fought these same injustices throughout their storied careers."

The Hall of Fame is scheduled to host SEC media days July 13-16.

Beaudin told ESPN on Saturday morning that demonstrators weren't able to enter the museum attraction and that no artifacts or displays were damaged. She said the damage was limited to the retail gift shop.

"We're just trying to get everything boarded up and secure," she said. "We've had estimators and insurance out, but we don't know the monetary damage yet."

The Hall of Fame was working on a reopening plan after being closed for several weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. Beaudin said the looting and damage would potentially delay those plans.

In a lengthy statement released Saturday, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said more needs to be done to address systematic racism but denounced resorting to vandalism or violence.

"Peaceful protests of the past have led to new ways forward," Blank said. "Lawlessness, vandalism and intentionally upending the peace with any form of violence has never been productive and is not the answer. We must not accept or condone violence in any way. And to be sure, Atlanta is better than what we saw in the actions of a few last night.

"Together we will rise above this on the strength of what has always made Atlanta great -- its people, its leaders of past and present and its unique culture that is welcoming to all."