July 24, 2024

Archie Wertheim

Technology Integration and Foundations for Effective Leadership

Joey Chestnut Pushed Out of July 4 Hot Dog Competition Over Vegan Dog Sponsorship

3 min read
Joey Chestnut Pushed Out of July 4 Hot Dog Competition Over Vegan Dog Sponsorship

Joey Chestnut won’t be participating in this year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, which is held annually on Coney Island on July 4. The reason? Chestnut recently got a new sponsor, plant-based food brand Impossible Foods, and Nathan’s won’t allow Chestnut to promote a competing brand during what’s supposed to be an advertisement for Nathan’s.

Major League Eating, the governing body that oversees the Nathan’s event on Independence Day, was quick to point out Chestnut hadn’t technically been “banned” from the event, even though that’s effectively what’s happening.

“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 wrote Tuesday on X.

Chestnut has won the competition 16 times, including every Nathan’s contest since 2016. But the 40-year-old’s new sponsorship wasn’t going to work for the hot dog company since it’s with a direct competitor.

“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,” the MLE statement explained.

The New York Post, which was the first news outlet to report Chestnut’s exit from the competition, cited an anonymous source to claim the competitive eater was paid $200,000 to appear last year and was offered a new $1.2 million contract for the next four years.

“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,” Major League Eating wrote.

But Chestnut characterized the move as a ban, pushing back on some of MLE’s claims.

“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. 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 tweeted on Tuesday.

“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,” Chestnut continued. “This is apparently the basis on which I’m being banned, and it doesn’t impact the July 4th event.”

Chestnut said MLE’s decision was going to “deprive the great fans of the holiday’s usual joy and entertainment” and thanked his fans.

Chestnut won the 2023 competition by eating 62 hot dogs and buns, according to ESPN. The all-time record was 76 hot dogs and buns, which Chestnut achieved in 2021.

ESPN quotes MLE event organizer George Shea who compared it to basketball legend Michael Jordan saying he wanted to promote both Nike and Adidas. And that kind of gives away the fact that competitive eating isn’t really an independent sporting exercise in any way if the participants are bound to a single sponsor. Again, everyone already understands the annual hot dog eating competition is just an advertisement for Nathan’s, but the response by organizers sure puts that in stark relief.

That said, the MLE would like Chestnut to return and even called him an “American hero” for eating more hot dogs than anybody else.

“Joey Chestnut is an American hero,” MLE said in its online statement. “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.”

Impossible also sent Gizmodo a statement in support of Chestnut, given all the controversy.

“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,” an Impossible Foods spokesperson said.

Updated with additional comment from Chestnut on Twitter and Impossible Foods.

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