Joey Chestnut’s absence from Nathan’s hot dog eating contest won’t stop event, MLE president says

June 12, 2024
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Major League Eating (MLE) president Richard Shea insisted on Wednesday the show would go on with or without Joey Chestnut in attendance for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July.

Chestnut, the 16-time champion in the Coney Island spectacle, will not be competing in the event over an issue with contract stipulations. Chestnut recently signed a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, which launched a vegan hot dog. MLE rules stipulate hot dog eating competitors cannot sign with rival brands.

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Joey Chestnut chows down

Joey Chestnut stuffs his mouth with hot dogs during the men’s competition of Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest, July 4, 2019 at New York’s Coney Island. (AP Photo/Sarah Stier, File)

Shea said on ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast that the contest will still happen in Brooklyn, New York, next month.

“Yes, this is the biggest day in competitive eating,” Shea said. “This is the Masters. The mustard yellow belt is Major League Eating’s green jacket. There’s no competitive eating fan, or I would argue sports fan, that would refute that.”

MLE explained Chestnut’s absence from this year’s event.

“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,” MLE said in a statement.”

MLE said it allowed Chestnut to participate in a rival competition on Labor Day, which will be broadcast on Netflix. Chestnut is reported to have made $200,000 for appearing in last year’s contest and was offered a four-year, $1.2 million deal.

Instead, Chestnut will be promoting a rival.

“MLE and Nathan’s went to great lengths 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,” the league continued.

Joey Chestnut sign

A person holds a sign with Joey Chestnut’s face during the 2023 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island on July. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

FLASHBACK: JOEY CHESTNUT BELIEVES PROTESTER AT LAST YEAR’S CONTEST COST HIM 5 HOT DOGS, MLE PRESIDENT SAYS

“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.

“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.”

Chestnut explained he was “gutted” by MLE’s decision.

“I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years Im [sic] banned from the Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest,” Chestnut wrote. “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.

“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.

Joey Chestnut at a Georgia game

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut poses with his mustard yellow championship belt during a game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Ball State Cardinals at Sanford Stadium on Sept. 9, 2023 in Athens, Georgia. (Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images)

“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!”

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Shea told ABC News that if Chestnut was promoting a hamburger, everything would have been copacetic.

Impossible Foods later released a statement.

“We love Joey and support him in any contest he chooses. It’s OK to experiment with a new dog. Meat eaters shouldn’t have to be exclusive to just one wiener,” the company said.

Fox News’ Ryan Morik contributed to this report.

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