Was Joey Chestnut Banned From The 2024 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest?

Joey Chestnut celebrating at Nathan's
Joey Chestnut celebrating at Nathan's - Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is perhaps the biggest event in competitive eating, but we are about to find out just how big it can be without its brightest star, Joey Chestnut. Held at Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs original location on Coney Island, the contest attracts millions of viewers each year along with tens of thousands of live spectators. The competition has minted other eating stars over the year, like the newly retired Takeru Kobayashi, but the unquestioned king of the competition has been Chestnut, who has won the competition a record 16 times, including 8 straight wins dating back to 2016. Chestnut owns all 10 of the top performances at the hot dog eating contest, including downing a record 76 dogs and buns in 2021. So, when Major League Eating announced he would not be competing in the 2024 event, it was a baffling shock. What could be the reason?

Tasting Table reached out to Major League Eating (MLE), and in a statement, the organization explained that Chestnut has not been banned but is considered ineligible for the competition due to his endorsement deal with Impossible Foods, which breaks the rules of the Nathan's contest. MLE says that for years, Nathan's has required that participants not endorse other hot dog brands, saying, "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."

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Joey Chestnut's Deal With Impossible Foods Violates A Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest Rule

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest - a katz/Shutterstock

MLE emphasized that Chestnut is not banned from attending, even if he isn't competing, noting that it "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." MLE says it was "devastated" to learn of the decision, calling Chestnut "an American hero." The statement did leave open the possibility that Chestnut could return to the event, as long as he rescinded his conflicting deal, saying, "We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated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."

A spokesperson for Impossible Foods told Tasting Table, "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 brand (which already made our favorite plant-based burger) announced new Impossible Hot Dogs late last year, and the company also just announced a major new ad campaign and rebrand, which Chestnut could potentially be a part of. Considering that the New York Post is reporting Chestnut was offered a $1.2 million, four-year contract by Nathan's, Impossible's deal must have been pretty beefy.

Read the original article on Tasting Table