Joey Chestnut says he ‘felt bad’ by strangling the ‘kid’ protester during a sausage eating contest

Joey Chestnut is not happy with the way he handled a surprising incident at this year’s Nathan’s famous annual Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Chestnut – who got his 15th mustard belt on Monday at the long-running competition – says he “felt bad” for putting a protester, who hurried to the stage in the middle of the competition, in a stranglehold.

“As soon as I grabbed the guy, I realized he was a kid,” Chestnut said in an interview with USA Today Sports’ Josh Peter. “I felt bad afterwards. I was just amplified, just focused on getting back to eating. “

“It’s just a shame. I wish it did not happen. It is a skirt,” he added.

During Chestnut’s most recent championship performance, three protesters from animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere stormed the stage as the titanium competitor was about to scarf his 18th hot dog down.

Wearing “Star Wars” masks and holding up signs that read “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar,” activists rushed the event to protest Smithfield Foods – the pork supplier for Nathan’s Famous.

One of the protesters with a Darth Vader mask pushed Chestnut out of his position before showing his sign to the crowd.

Chestnut, who was already injured and used crutches due to a tendon rupture in his leg when he arrived at the function that day, then responded by putting the protester in a chokehold and fighting him to the ground.

As if nothing had happened, Chestnut immediately continued to eat his frankfurters after taking down the hidden disruptor. The trio of protesters were removed by security guards.

The protester arrested by Chestnut was identified as 21-year-old Scott Gilbertson from Berkeley, California. He has since been charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and harassment, according to USA Today.

The business also spoke with Gilbertson, who said he was not aware at the time that Chestnut was managing choke teams, which he called “unnecessary.”

“I assumed it was a security guard,” he said. “And when I saw the video, it was Joey. I was surprised. ”

Gilbertson said he “pushed” Chestnut and understood why he could have reacted that way.

Chestnut told USA Today that even though the altercation looked “exaggerated,” he reacted as he did because the protester was masked.

“I was a little scared because he was wearing the mask,” Chestnut said. “I saw the mask, and I think that was where I realized he does not belong here.”

“It looks exaggerated,” he added. “But in my position, I do not know, I had waited a long time for the competition and I would wish [Gilbertson] had just stood next to me and I would never have touched him. “

The other two protesters involved – Robert Yamada from Phoenix and Joshua Marxen from Santa Clara, California – were also charged with criminal intrusion and disorder, according to authorities.

The New York-born fast food chain was previously under fire from Direct Action Everywhere due to alleged worker safety, public health and animal welfare.

As for the award-winning hot dog enthusiast, Chestnut said the incident prevented him from swallowing about three more hot dogs in the competition.

Nevertheless, he was named champion after quickly eating 63 hot dogs and muffins, just 15 and a half more than second-place winner Geoffrey Esper.

The much-anticipated Nathan’s famous annual Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place every year on the fourth of July in Coney Island, New York.

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