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Even if you don’t follow competitive eating, you’ve likely heard the name Joey Chestnut. He’s been a familiar sight at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, having won eight competitions in a row and a whopping 16 out of the past 17. Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of him during any of those victories. Maybe you expressly tuned in during his world record 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes in 2021, looking down at your own meal with a mix of confusion and disgust.

Despite Chestnut’s reign, the 2024 Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest will feature a new champion. That’s because Chestnut has been banned from the competition.

Is there foul play afoot? Did Chestnut secretly add another stomach to enhance his performance? Was he betting on other eating competitions this whole time?

Turns out the reason is less salacious and more business. Chestnut signed an endorsement deal with Impossible Foods, which Nathan’s considers a competitor because of their line of plant-based hot dogs.

Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

Per Jomboy Media, Chestnut earned $200,000 by participating in last year’s competition. His deal with Impossible Foods is worth a reported $1.2 million over four years. That’s a 50% annual increase, though Chestnut was earning money via other eating competitions, too.

A Joey Chestnut Twitter/X account posted a thread saying he was “gutted to learn from the media” about the ban. He claimed Nathan’s and Major League Eating (MLE), which helps put on the event, changed the rules about which endorsements were allowed.

MLE co-founder George Shea compared Chestnut’s move to Michael Jordan going to Adidas while still praising Air Jordans. MLE also released a statement that, in part, called Chestnut an “American hero” and expressed “hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand.”

An Impossible Foods spokesperson was more diplomatic, saying they support Joey in any contest he chooses, adding, “It’s okay to experiment with a new dog. Meat eaters shouldn’t have to be exclusive to just one wiener.”

This isn’t the first time a previous competition winner has had trouble with Nathan’s. Takeru Kobayashi, who won six times and announced his retirement from competitive eating earlier this year, didn’t compete in 2010, reportedly because Nathan’s wanted him to sign an exclusive contract.

Perhaps this beef gets squashed in time for the contest. For now, it looks like someone else is going to win the Mustard Yellow Belt this year—and Nathan’s might be in the doghouse all the way until the Fourth of July.

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