Joey Chestnut ‘Gutted’ After Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Ban

Eric Thayer/Getty Images
Eric Thayer/Getty Images

It’s the end of an era for Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, with 16-time champion Joey Chestnut deemed unable to compete in the beloved July 4 event after signing with a vegan brand.

Major League Eating said in a statement on Tuesday that it had been “devastated to learn” of Chestnut’s betrayal: choosing 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.”

Though the organization did not name the rival brand, the New York Post reported that Chestnut had recently gone into business with Impossible Foods.

Major League Eating said that it had gone “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,” but that they’d been unable to come to an agreement.

“For nearly two decades we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions,” the league said. “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 a statement issued on social media several hours later, Chestnut said he was “gutted” by the ban, which he said he’d learned about from media reports.

“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 said.

“To set the record straight,” the competitive eater continued, “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.”

He thanked his fans and promised they’d see him gorge himself silly again soon. “STAY HUNGRY!”

Chestnut, 40, has won the hot dog eating contest every year from 2007 to 2014, and then again from 2016 to 2023. (Matt Stonie beat him by two dogs in 2015.) He holds the record for most franks ever swallowed at the competition, downing a belt-busting 76 in 2021.

Major League Eating, hailing him as “an American hero,” said it hoped Chestnut might return home to the contest after he no longer represents its rival.

The Nathan’s contest has been held on Coney Island in New York City every summer since 1979. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it was held without a crowd at an indoor arena a few miles away, and with only five contestants seated at the table. Unsurprisingly, Chestnut took the gold with 75 hot dogs.

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