Hot dog eating legend out of July 4 contest over vegan beef

Say it ain’t so, Joey!

In news that may be hard to swallow, Joey Chestnut, the competitive eating champ who has owned the annual Fourth of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Competition, will not be allowed to defend his 2023 title.

Chestnut will not compete this year at Coney Island due to a conflict over a sponsorship deal with vegan frank manufacturer Impossible Foods, according to the New York Post. In addition to winning the event every year since 2016 and 16 times overall, the California-born competitive eater holds the world record for downing 76 hotdogs in 2021.

Citing a source, the newspaper reported that Chestnut was paid $200,000 to appear in last year’s competition, which he won by consuming 62 hotdogs, and was offered a $1.2 million, four-year contract going forward.

But Chestnut is demanding that he be allowed to represent Impossible Foods, which is known for its Impossible Burger made with a laboratory-synthesized substance called “heme.”

“The two sides could still come to a resolution before July 4, but it depends on Joey,” an insider told the Post.

“He’s the Michael Jordan of competitive eating. But imagine if Michael Jordan said to Nike, ‘I love being the face of Nike but I want to do commercials for Adidas too,” the source added.

Major League Eating (MLE) is sanctioned by Nathan’s to run the annual hotdog eating competition, and the organization reportedly “bent over backward” to accommodate Chestnut, even allowing him to compete in a rival Labor Day hotdog-eating event providing no hot dog brand was mentioned.

Chestnut released a statement on X suggesting he was “banned” from competing, adding that the event is “looking to change the rules.”

“I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years I’m banned from the Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest. 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,” he wrote. “To set the record straight, I do not have a contract with MLE or Nathans and they are looking to change the rules from past years as it relates to other partners I can work with. This is apparently the basis on which I’m being banned, and it doesn’t impact the July 4th event.”

“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. To my fans, I love you and appreciate you. Rest assured that you’ll see me eat again soon!! STAY HUNGRY!”

MLE issued a statement as well, suggesting that Chestnut was not banned.

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest,” the organizers said in a statement. “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.”

“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 brand over our long-time relationship,” the release continued. “Joey Chestnut is an American hero. We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. We hope he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

Tom Tillison

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