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Hot dog contest bans Chestnut over sponsor beef

Joey Chestnut, the 16-time champ of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest who has won eight consecutive Mustard Belts, has been banned from this year's event.

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Joey Chestnut, the 16-time champion of the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, will not compete in the annual Fourth of July event next month, Major League Eating announced Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Major League Eating (MLE) told ESPN that Chestnut had chosen to "represent another hot dog brand" and therefore would not be allowed to participate in the Nathan's contest, which is held annually at New York City's Coney Island.

Chestnut, competitive eating's biggest star who is known as "Jaws," has won the event eight years in a row. He reportedly agreed to a sponsorship deal with Impossible Foods, a company that makes plant-based hot dogs, and a competing company to Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs.

"It would be like Michael Jordan saying to Nike, 'I'm going to represent Adidas, too,'" MLE event organizer George Shea said.

Chestnut, in turn, issued his own statement on X, saying he is "gutted" to find out that he wouldn't be able to compete.

"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," Chestnut said in his post. "... Sadly, this is the decision Nathan's and Major League Eating are making, and it will deprive the great fans of the holiday's usual joy and entertainment."

Impossible Foods told ESPN that they support Chestnut "in any contest he chooses" and that "meat eaters shouldn't have to be exclusive to just one wiener."

Major League Eating said in a statement that it was "devastated" to find out that Chestnut "has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs."

"MLE 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," MLE said in its statement. "For nearly two decades we have worked under the same basic hot dog exclusivity provisions. However, it seems that Joey and his managers have prioritized a new partnership with a different hot dog brand over our long-time relationship."

In his post, Chestnut said he doesn't have a contract with MLE or Nathan's, and "they are looking to change the rules from past years as it related to other partners I can work with."

Chestnut owns the top 10 performances at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, including downing a record 76 hot dogs and buns in 2021. He ate 62 franks and buns to win last year's event.

"Joey Chestnut is an American hero," MLE's statement said. "We would love nothing more than to have him at the Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest, which he has dominated for years. We hope that he returns when he is not representing a rival brand."

Chestnut thanked his fans and promised that he wouldn't be away from the spotlight for long.

"Rest assured that you'll see me eat again soon!!" he posted to X. "STAY HUNGRY!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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All three game console makers have now abandoned X integration

The Nintendo Switch has officially discontinued its integration with X, making it the last major console to do so following Microsoft and Sony disabled their own access.

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As of June 10th, Nintendo has officially discontinued support for the Switch console’s integration with X (formerly Twitter), making it the last of the current-gen consoles to do so after Microsoft and Sony disabled their own access last year. 

The integration was removed as part of the Nintendo Switch’s 18.1.0 update, taking away the ability for users to link their X account with the console, or post in-game screenshots from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate directly to the social media platform. The removal of these features comprised the majority of the 18.1.0 update, which also includes some general stability improvements and ditches support for linking social media accounts via the Switch’s Friend Suggestions feature.

Nintendo announced these changes last month but didn’t explicitly state the reason for pulling support for X. Given Switch users can still share their content to Facebook, it likely has something to do with pricing changes to the X API which now starts at $42,000 a month for enterprise customers.

Microsoft didn’t mention X’s API update when it removed the ability for Xbox consoles to share game uploads to the service last April, nor did Sony when it followed suit in November for the PS5 and PS4. Cost may not be the only factor as Slack said it had also pulled support because the API updates impacted the functionality of its own X integration, but regardless of the reason, console gamers will now have a hard time connecting directly with the platform. 

That’s despite the X Gaming account saying in a now-deleted post that its “partnership with Nintendo remains strong” after Nintendo announced its plans to kill Switch support.

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WNBA sets records in TV ratings, attendance

The first month of the WNBA season drew its highest attendance since the league's second season in 1998 and the best television ratings in its history, the WNBA announced Tuesday.

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NEW YORK -- The first month of the WNBA season drew its highest attendance since the league's second season in 1998 and the best television ratings in its history, the WNBA announced Tuesday.

The figures are the latest evidence of the surging popularity of the WNBA since it added prominent rookies including Indiana's Caitlin Clark, Chicago's Angel Reese and Los Angeles' Cameron Brink, all of whom drew big audiences playing in college.

Across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ION and NBA TV, WNBA games are averaging 1.32 million viewers, nearly tripling last season's average of 462,000, the league said Tuesday.

"What's happening now in women's basketball is confirmation of what we've always known: The demand is there, and women's sports is a valuable investment," said Colie Edison, the WNBA's chief growth officer. "We're encouraged by growing engagement across all our verticals, especially as we welcome new and diverse audiences into our fandom. The WNBA continues to experience sustained growth as our league embraces this heightened momentum."

The WNBA finished May having sold out more than half its games, more than double the number of sellouts last year. Approximately 400,000 fans have attended games, the most through the first month in 26 years.

Arenas have been filled to 94% capacity, a 17% rise from last year, the league said. Some games have been moved to bigger arenas to accommodate increased fan interest, such as Clark and the Fever playing at the Washington Wizards' downtown arena in front of 20,333 fans last Friday night instead of the Mystics' usual venue, which seats 4,200.

On the television side, the WNBA said it saw a 96% increase in Hispanic viewers and a 67% increase in Black viewers.

Merchandise sales rose 236% from the same period last year, with Clark, Reese and Brink ranking in the top five for jersey sales during the first week of the season.
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