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Joey Chestnut Out of Nathan’s July 4 Hot Dog Contest on ESPN

Joey Chestnut Out of Nathan’s July 4 Hot Dog Contest on ESPN

There are a handful of July 4 traditions that are universal: Barbecues, fireworks, and of course the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The annual competition is a huge draw, with thousands making the pilgrimage to Coney Island to witness the event in person, and millions more watching on TV via ESPN, which locked up the exclusive right to the event through 2029.

Joey Chestnut is without question the most famous name in competitive eating, having won the Nathan’s event 16 times, including every year since 2016. But he will be left out of this year’s competition, Major League Eating says.

The reason? Chestnut has inked a deal to be a spokesperson for Impossible Foods, which launched a plant-based hot dog earlier this year, going againnst brand exclusivity rules connected to the Nathan’s competition.

“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.”

That other “unbranded hot dog eating contest” is slated to stream on Netflix, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

In the world of sports, stars matter, and while Major League Eating is, uh, small potatoes compared to the likes o the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL, the absence of Chestnut is sure to have an impact on ESPN’s ratings, with the morning event being replayed all day on an otherwise slow day for sports.

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Major League Eating, for its part, says that it is holding out hope that Chestnut returns to the Nathan’s event… once he is no longer shilling for vegan dogs. Nathan’s franks are all-beef.

“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,” the organization said. “We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

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