Joey Chestnut Can’t Compete in Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest on 4th of July — Here’s Why

Joey Chestnut has been banned from participating in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4.

The perennial winner — who earned his 16th Mustard Belt in 2023 — has reportedly signed a deal to be a spokesperson for a rival company, which goes against brand exclusivity rules. According to The New York Post, Chestnut is representing Impossible Foods and their new plant-based frankfurter. (Update: Chestnut will face off against longtime competitor Takeru Kobayashi in a Labor Day competition for Netflix.)

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“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,” a spokesperson for Major League Eating tells TVLine. “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.”

MLE maintains that Chestnut is an “American hero,” and they would love to work with him again. “We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand,” their statement concludes.

An Impossible Foods spokesperson, meanwhile, has released a statement of support for Chestnut: “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.”

Per ESPN, which airs the annual hot dog binge-athon, Chestnut is responsible for the top 10 performances at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, including downing a record 76 hot dogs and buns in 2021. He ate 62 franks and buns in 2023, which was enough to earn the competitive eater his 16th title.

TVLine has reached out to Chestnut, as well as Nathan’s Famous parent company Smithfield, for comment.

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