Chestnut out of hot dog contest over sponsor beef

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.

ESPN has reached out to Chestnut and Impossible Foods for comment.

“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,” Major League Eating 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 hot dog brand over our long-time relationship.”

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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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