Joey Chestnut dropped from July 4 hot dog eating contest for endorsing vegan brand

NEW YORK — Joey Chestnut has been kicked out of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4 at Coney Island for agreeing to endorse plant-based vegan hot dogs.

Major League Eating, which runs the contest, said Chestnut was booted for signing a sponsorship deal with a competing food company, reportedly the famously beef-free Impossible Foods.

“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 posted on social media.

The competition said it would welcome Chestnut — “an American hero” — back with open arms if he returned to their side in the dog fight.

Chestnut has not commented publicly, and he hasn’t yet shared any public endorsement of Impossible Foods.

On June 1, he posted a photo of himself on Instagram eating two meat-based hot dogs in Toledo, Ohio.

“Heck yeah, I still love hot dogs! Rudy’s in Toledo does not disappoint!! So good, it’s hard to stop eating,” he captioned the post.

Major League Eating claimed that Chestnut was not “banned” from the competition, but he will not be allowed to compete if continues his Impossible Foods endorsement.

“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.”

Though Chestnut is easily the face of the Fourth of July competition — he has won 16 of the past 17 events — Major League Eating has seen beef like this before. Japanese star Takeru Kobayashi was kicked out of the competition in 2010 for refusing to sign the required exclusive endorsement deal.

Kobayashi attended the event on Coney Island as a spectator in 2010, and he was dramatically arrested on stage after Chestnut won. All charges against Kobayashi were dropped, but he never returned to the contest, clearing the way for Chestnut’s reign of dominance.

After news broke of Chestnut’s removal from competition, online commenters shared their anger with both parties.

“I’ll be representing a different channel during your hot dog eating contest this year #LetJoeyEat,” one person replied to Major League Eating.

“Please drop this Impossible Brands deal and come back to Nathan’s,” another person wrote on an unrelated Chestnut Instagram post.