Joey Chestnut Says He Regrets Putting 'Kid' Protestor Who Disrupted Competition in a Chokehold

Joey Chestnut said he wished he reacted differently to the sudden surprise during the Coney Island competition on the Fourth of July

Joey Chestnut has just one regret after this year's Nathan's Famous Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The competitive eater, 38, who scarfed down 63 hot dogs (including the water-soaked buns) on the Fourth of July, told USA Today Sports that he should not have put a protestor who rushed the stage mid-competition into a chokehold.

"As soon as I grabbed the guy, I realized he was a kid,'' Chestnut, who won the competition, told the outlet Tuesday. "I felt bad afterwards. I was just amped up, just focused on getting back to eating.

"It's just unfortunate. I wish that it didn't happen. It's a bummer," he added.

The "kid" was identified as protester Scott Gilbertson, 21, of Berkeley, California, who was charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment, the outlet said. He was one of three animal rights activists with the grassroots group Direct Action Everywhere protesting the Coney Island, New York event.

A protester interrupts the 2022 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest as Joey Chestnut grabbed him down from his neck in Coney Island, New York City, United States on July 4, 2022.
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Gilbertson, wearing a Darth Vader mask, held up a sign that read, "Expose Smithfield Deathstar," referencing pork supplier Smithfield Foods, and situated himself directly next to Chestnut, as the eater was devouring his 18th hot dog of the 10-minute-long competition.

"I was freaked out a little bit because he had the mask on,'' Chestnut told USA Today. "I saw the mask and I think that's when I realized he doesn't belong here.''

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Meanwhile, Gilbertson told the outlet that he felt the 15-time Nathan's Famous Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest champ overacted in the moment.

"I felt like it was unnecessary for sure,'' he said. "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.''

Gilbertson added that his neck is still sore from the incident.

NEW YORK, USA - JULY 04: Joey Chestnut won first place eating 63 hot dogs in 10 minutes during the men 2022 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Maimonides Park of Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, United States on July 4, 2022. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency/Getty

Direct Action Everywhere did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Chestnut, meanwhile, shared on the TODAY show Tuesday that he is still recuperating from the contest, where he out-ate the nearest competitor by 15.5 hot dogs, likening his ongoing recovery to that of a marathon runner's.

"I don't feel too great," he said.

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