Hot Dog Eating King Chestnut Bows Out of Fourth of July Contest Over Contract Dispute

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Imagine the ritual of Independence Day – the bursts of fireworks echoing through the summer air, the sizzling barbecues teeming with hot dogs, and a sea of spectators donned in foam hot-dog hats. Amidst this vibrant tableau, the crème de la crème of the spectacle is the hardy participants of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. Their faces animated with determination, their hands erupting in a frenzy of flying sausages and buns, and cheering onlookers urging them on. But this year, the spotlight will miss one charismatic figure, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut.

As the reigning king of the dog-downing contest, Chestnut’s absence from the impending spectacle is quite the unexpected twist for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest fraternity. Joey Chestnut, with his reputation built over competitive biting and swallowing, has been the fan-dubbed “poster boy” of the contest. Since his first participation in 2005, Chestnut has entrenched himself in the annals of the contest’s history, winning the coveted Mustard Belt almost every year since 2007, save a solitary upset in 2015. His appetite remained unfettered even in 2021, as he gulped down a staggering 76 franks and buns in just 10 minutes, a jaw-dropping record that remains unsurpassed.

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However, an unforeseen contract dispute has compelled Chestnut to withdraw from the very stage that solidified his legacy. George Shea, the organizer of the Major League Eating event, articulates the sentiment of countless fans when he confides, “We love him. The fans love him… He made the choice.” Chestnut, however, contradicts Shea’s claim by declaring on a popular social platform, “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.”

Breathing life into the burgeoning controversy, Chestnut revealed in the dire aftermath of the announcement that he had been rigorously preparing to protect his title at the contest. He expressed his disappointment at learning through the press that he is disallowed from competing.

In the midst of the mounting debate, Shea exposes that the crux of the conflict lies in Chestnut’s new endorsement of a competing brand, Impossible Foods. In a tacit understanding, competing in a contest sponsored by Nathan’s while endorsing a rival brand was deemed a violation of exclusivity, despite the absence of financial contention.

Interestingly, this is not unprecedented. In 2010, the fan-favorite Takeru Kobayashi, who was Chestnut’s prominent opposition, also discontinued his run in the fierce competition. He too faced a contractual disagreement with Major League Eating. The contest has a long history of ebb and flow, dating back to 1972, with its fair share of controversies and spectacles. But as always, the show must go on.

Nevertheless, Chestnut assures his fans, to “Stay hungry,” insinuating that he will undoubtedly return to competitive eating. But as for the upcoming contest on Coney Island’s shores in Brooklyn, there’s a heightened anticipation for a new champion to emerge, perhaps from the ranks of international contenders or a local underdog. As they say, the only sure thing about luck is that it will change.