The event even garnered attention in the sports gambling world.
In case you didn’t know, Joey Chestnut is a bit of a legend at this contest. He’s a 15-time champion and holds the world record for 76 hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes. Texas A&M Barstool sums up his dominance pretty well.
'You're not actually going to bet on a hot dog eating contest are you?'— br_betting (@br_betting) July 4, 2022
This year's contest had an even more American element, one that’s been around long before hot dogs or fireworks or any July 4 festivities: protesting. During the competition, a protester (one of three) wearing a Darth Vader mask rushed the stage, bumped Chestnut out of his position and then held up a sign saying “Expose Smithfield Deathstar.” This was in reference to Nathan’s pork provider, Smithfield Foods, which has been called out for animal cruelty, pollution and unfair treatment of employees.
My dad’s generation had Michael Jordan, my generation has Joey Chestnut pic.twitter.com/nhgByLxfsk— Barstool Texas A&M (@BarstoolTexasAM) July 4, 2022
Chestnut quickly put the protester in a headlock and threw him to the ground with one arm, while holding a hot dog with the other, and also, of course, eating one.
Twitter went ape shit.
Joey Chestnut— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) July 4, 2022
"Joey Chestnut: 63 dogs consumed, 1 neck snapped," wrote one user.
Joey Chestnut: 63 dogs consumed, 1 neck snapped pic.twitter.com/rziV9ZYV6P— Stephen Schoch (@bigdonkey47) July 4, 2022
Hammering 46 hot dogs after choke slamming someone is peak athletic performance. https://t.co/y5Nby8jws1— Certainly Not Collin (@collinfoodmaker) July 4, 2022
"Joey Chesnut [sic] defending his crown on 4th of July while on crutches while beating up a protester mid competition will go down as one of the most athletic, most patriotic , most heroic performances in the history of not only only this country, but the world," wrote @stoolpresidente.
Joey Chesnut defending his crown on 4th of July while on crutches while beating up a protester mid competition will go down as one of the most athletic, most patriotic , most heroic performances in the history of not only only this country, but the world.— Dave Portnoy (@stoolpresidente) July 4, 2022
Joey Chestnut just reached a new level of icon. Housing a glizzy while choking out a protestor is the most American thing you can do.— Ross Bolen (@WRBolen) July 4, 2022
Do not fuck with the GOAT pic.twitter.com/hZjP8BUKkm— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) July 4, 2022
Joey Chestnut choke-slamming a dude mid-competition and barely breaking stride is legitimately one of the most impressive athletic feats in human history. pic.twitter.com/gXzcXVaGRt— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) July 4, 2022
But not everyone was on Chestnut's side. Many were praising the protesters.
Joey Chestnut… DAWG pic.twitter.com/dNuDsSDuWB— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) July 4, 2022
One user wrote: "Excellent work activists! Smithfield "Foods" is an inherently violent corporation towards animals, workers, and the environment!"
Excellent work activists! Smithfield "Foods" is an inherently violent corporation towards animals, workers, and the environment! The press release is good, too! #StopSmithfield— Rocky (he/him) (@mistergreensf) July 4, 2022
The chokehold is pretty funny but also the protester is right: Smithfield Foods is a nexus for animal-human cruelty and climate damage happy fourth everybody enjoy those Hot Dogs while you can https://t.co/zvuwQNytYK— House made of heart, break it (@young_weather) July 4, 2022
The stunt did raise awareness for the protester's cause. Many graphic videos from the company's farm also began surfacing on Twitter. Others, like Jacob Alpharad, instead summed up the national lack of celebratory spirit this year.
The kid was protesting Smithfield Foods and their revolting treatment animals, but sure let’s celebrate competitive eating— Sam (@Phichigan_) July 4, 2022
not really in a huge "lets celebrate america" mood rn— jacob alpharad (@Alpharad) July 4, 2022