Joey Chestnut once again won the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest on Monday. But in winning his 15th title in 16 years on July 4, Chestnut went viral as he found himself dealing with an unexpected protester who worked his way on stage as the 38-year-old was chowing down.
Instead of security getting involved with the incident, Chestnut took matters into his own hands by putting the protester in a headlock before throwing him to the side and continuing eating.
Chestnut might’ve been praised for his actions, but on Tuesday, he told USA TODAY Sports that he wished he would not have behaved that way toward the protester, calling it an “unfortunate” situation.
“As soon as I grabbed the guy, I realized he was a kid,” Chestnut said, per USA TODAY Sports. “I felt bad afterwards. I was just amped up, just focused on getting back to eating. … It’s a bummer.”
Chestnut ate 63 hot dogs, which was 20 more than second-place finisher Geoffrey Esper.
21-year-old Scott Gilbertson was protesting on behalf of Direct Action Everywhere, which is an animal rights group that has taken aim at Smithfield—the company that licenses the Nathan’s brand. Gilbertson held up a sign that read, “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar,” in reference to Smithfield’s Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah.
Gilbertson was reached for comment and expressed his belief that Chestnut was overly aggressive, saying: “I felt like it was unnecessary for sure. I had the mask on so I couldn’t see who it was. I assumed it was a security guard. And then when I saw the video, it was Joey. I was surprised.”
Chestnut suggested that Gilbertson bumping into him is what caused him to react in the manner he did.
“It looks excessive. … But in my position, I don’t know, I had been waiting a long time for the contest and I wish [Gilbertson] had just stood by me and I never would have touched him. If he hadn’t elbowed me and got in front of me, it would have not been a problem. But I also wish they didn’t get on stage.”
The 2022 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest was a landmark one in that it marked the return to Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York after the global pandemic changed things the previous two years.