Joey Chestnut opens up about 4th of July hot dog contest ban, where he’ll eat instead

This Fourth of July, Joey Chestnut will be notably absent from the famed beachside Coney Island Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The all-time eating legend opened up in a new interview about the recent ban and how he plans to remain a part of the patriotic holiday with plenty of hot dogs.

Last month, Chestnut announced on social media that he had been “banned” from the annual event, claiming he learned of the decision by Major League Eating along with the rest of the world. Major League Eating said Chestnut would not be able to compete due to his affiliation with plant-based hot dog brand Impossible Foods.

As ABC News reported previously, Nathan’s has long required eaters not to endorse a rival brand if they plan to compete in the annual hot dog eating contest.

PHOTO: Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs during the 2022 Nathans Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, NY, July 4, 2022.

Joey Chestnut eats hot dogs during the 2022 Nathans Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, NY, July 4, 2022.

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

“I was gutted to learn from the media that after 19 years Im banned from the Nathan’s July 4th Hot Dog Eating Contest,” Chestnut wrote on X at the time, adding, “I love competing in that event, I love celebrating America with my fans all over this great country on the 4th and I have been training to defend my title.”

Now, the 16-time winner is preparing to take his talents to Fort Bliss in Texas, where he’ll compete in a five-minute eating contest against four soldiers instead, in an event set to take place on the Fourth of July.

Ahead of that challenge, Chestnut spoke with Sports Illustrated in an exclusive interview to share his hopes for possible reconciliation with Nathan’s and his excitement over Thursday’s event.

Joey Chestnut on his reaction to Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest ban

Chestnut told Sports Illustrated he was at the doctor when he received an email from a reporter asking about his participation in the iconic contest, followed by a phone call, which he said he did not pick up.

About “an hour later,” he said, “there was a little article saying that somebody leaked information.”

“It was weird — ‘Joey’s been banned for working with a vegan hot dog company,'” he recalled. “It just wasn’t the way I thought things were going to go.”

PHOTO: Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo hold 63 and 40 hot dogs respectively after winning the Nathan's Famous 4th of July 2022 hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, NY, July 4, 2022.

Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo hold 63 and 40 hot dogs respectively after winning the Nathan’s Famous 4th of July 2022 hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, NY, July 4, 2022.

Yuki Iwamura/AFP via Getty Images

Chestnut claimed that “everything with [the Impossible Foods affiliation] was perfectly fine by all my previous agreements. They changed terms and conditions [around] exclusivity — it’s the first time they’ve really changed things after the fact, and I had to say, ‘Hey, it’s too late, I’ve already started working with this brand.'”

Major League Eating claimed in an earlier statement that both the organization 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,” Major League Eating stated. “However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship.”

Chestnut told Sports Illustrated that despite the ban, he is open to working with Major League Eating again in the future.

“[George and Richard Shea, who run Major League Eating], both sent me a little message saying, pretty much, that they’re sorry it got ugly. One of them said hopefully we can have beers in the future,” he said. “But they’re not bad people, they’re just them, and that’s the way they are.”

He added, “I’m not burning any bridges. And I love it — I love the Fourth of July and that contest. I’m always willing to try. I don’t hold grudges. So nothing is out of the question.”

Where Joey Chestnut will eat his 4th of July hot dogs this year

PHOTO: Competitive eater Joey Chestnut wins with 63 hot dogs in the men's division at the 2022 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, NY, July 4, 2022.

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut wins with 63 hot dogs in the men’s division at the 2022 Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, NY, July 4, 2022.

Bobby Bank/Getty Images

Aside from the broken link with the hot dog brand and contest, Chestnut was able to lock in alternate plans to keep a version of the tradition alive.

“We’re going to celebrate the Fourth of July on an Army base, and I’ll still be part of the people’s Fourth of July. That worked out really, really well, and I’m happy,” he told Sports Illustrated.

“It’s more than a contest,” he added. “A lot of the mail or letters I get from people, it’s not saying, ‘Oh my God, you eat so many hot dogs, it’s amazing.’ It’s, ‘You’ve been a part of my Fourth of July for so long.’ That’s the awesome part. I get to be a part of people’s Fourth of July.”

“I love celebrating the Fourth of July, and the fact that I help other people celebrate the Fourth of July — it’s been really, really fun,” he added. “And I’m hoping I can still find ways to do that.”

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