The Petty Reason Joey Chestnut Can't Do Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest 2024

Joey Chestnut, the undisputed king of competitive eating, has become synonymous with Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, an event he has devoured with relish (pun intended) repeatedly. Since winning his first frank-gobbling battle in 2007, Chestnut has been crowned champion a total of 16 times, most recently in 2023. This year, he made an unexpected shift in his career when he entered into a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods. This decision unfortunately means Chestnut will be unable to participate in the beloved Coney Island tradition.

Major League Eating (MLE), the organization behind the annual undertaking, expressed disappointment in Chestnut's endorsement in a statement received by Static Media: "Major League Eating 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."

Impossible Foods also released a statement, which reads, "We love Joey and support him in any contest he chooses. It's OK to experiment with a new dog." In a recent campaign aimed at loyal meat eaters, the company is focusing on expanding the definition of "meat" to include both plant-based and animal-based fare.

No, Joey Chestnut wasn't banned from the 2024 contest

Joey Chestnut shared his side of the story on X, formerly known as Twitter, on June 11: "I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years [I'm] banned from the Nathan's July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest. I love competing in that event ... and I have been training to defend my title." He continued, "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."

Despite various reports, Chestnut is not banned from the historic event. Richard Shea, co-founder of MLE, clarified with NBC News, "There is no ban. Major League Eating wants him there. The fans want him there. Nathan's wants him there." As MLE's press release put it, "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, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand."

Until then, fans must settle for watching their favorite eater take on new challenges. Whether it's dozens of beef franks or plant-based dogs, Chestnut can continue to amaze crowds with his eating prowess (as long as he isn't served raw oysters).

This isn't the first time that the MLE refused to let a big name compete

While Joey Chestnut's current situation highlights some of the difficulties of living in a dog-eat-hot-dog world, he's not the first major competitive eater to run afoul of the MLE's rules. The now-retired Takeru Kobayashi became Nathan's Infamous back in 2010 after balking at an exclusivity agreement with the league. Perhaps somewhat ironically, his desire for more independence led the MLE to bar him from that year's Fourth of July hot dog eating competition. Kobayashi, who had previously dominated the event, would end up making it more eventful than usual.

Following a victory by none other than Chestnut, Kobayashi rushed onto the stage. His post-contest hotdogging got him arrested, but he ultimately wasn't banned. Chestnut, who expressed sympathy for his stage-rushing rival at the time, had only won his fourth championship. Little did he realize that more than a dozen years and a dozen victories later, he might feel sorry for himself, too.