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‘Gutted’ Chestnut out of hot dog contest over beef

‘gutted’-chestnut-out-of-hot-dog-contest-over-beef
‘Gutted’ Chestnut out of hot dog contest over beef

Major League Eating co-founder explains Joey Chestnut’s sponsor conflict (1:05)

Rich Shea, co-founder of Major League Eating, discusses how Joey Chestnut being barred from Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest is a “brand issue.” (1:05)

  • David Purdum, ESPN Staff WriterJun 11, 2024, 04:39 PM ET

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    • Joined ESPN in 2014
    • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

Joey Chestnut, the 16-time champion of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, will not compete in the annual Fourth of July event next month, Major League Eating announced Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Major League Eating (MLE) told ESPN that Chestnut had chosen to “represent another hot dog brand” and therefore would not be allowed to participate in the Nathan’s contest, which is held annually at New York City’s Coney Island.

Chestnut, competitive eating’s biggest star who is known as “Jaws,” has won the event eight years in a row. He reportedly agreed to a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a company that makes plant-based hot dogs, and a competing company to Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.

“It would be like Michael Jordan saying to Nike, ‘I’m going to represent Adidas, too,'” MLE event organizer George Shea said.

Chestnut, in turn, issued his own statement on X, saying he is “gutted” to find out that he wouldn’t be able to compete.

“I love competing in that event, I love celebrating America with my fans all over this great country on the 4th and I have been training to defend my title,” Chestnut said in his post. “… Sadly, this is the decision Nathan’s and Major League Eating are making, and it will deprive the great fans of the holiday’s usual joy and entertainment.”

ESPN reached out to Impossible Foods for comment.

Major League Eating said in a statement that it was “devastated” to find out that Chestnut “has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs.”

“MLE and Nathan’s went to great lengths in recent months to accommodate Joey and his management team, agreeing to the appearance fee and allowing Joey to compete in a rival unbranded hot dog eating contest on Labor Day,” MLE said in its statement. “For nearly two decades we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions. However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship.”

In his post, Chestnut said he doesn’t have a contract with MLE or Nathan’s, and “they are looking to change the rules from past years as it related to other partners I can work with.”

Chestnut owns the top 10 performances at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, including downing a record 76 hot dogs and buns in 2021. He ate 62 franks and buns to win last year’s event

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero,” MLE’s statement said. “We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

Chestnut thanked his fans and promised that he wouldn’t be away from the spotlight for long.

“Rest assured that you’ll see me eat again soon!!” he posted to X. “STAY HUNGRY!”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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