Major League Eating
||It has been suggested that this article be merged with International Federation of Competitive Eating. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2013.|
|Major League Eating
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
Major League Eating (MLE) is a franchise that sanctions professional competitive eating events and competitive eating television specials. The mission of Major League Eating is to maintain a safe environment for all events, while also seeking to create a dynamic and enjoyable fan experience. The league airs its annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN.
George and Richard Shea (brothers) took over Nathan's publicity in the mid-1990s and were able to not only increase the exposure and attendance of Nathan's hot dog eating contest, but with the huge success in bringing popularity to their eating contest they completely revolutionize the eating contest sport as more companies sought to take advantage of their marketing success. Seeing the perfect business opportunity, the brothers founded International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) in 1997 to oversee/regulate/organize events/TV deals. IFOCE later changed its name to "Major League Eating" (MLE). The brothers still represent Nathan's.
Renowned eaters Takeru Kobayashi, Joey Chestnut, Sonya Thomas, and Patrick Bertoletti have all been Major League Eaters, however, select few have opted to not sign contracts that the league requires to protect its sponsors and broadcast partners.
Takeru Kobayashi Contract Dispute
On June 28, 2010, Takeru Kobayashi announced he would not compete in the Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog eating competition due to a labor impasse with Major League Eating over the stipulation that he could only compete in contests sanctioned by MLE. Kobayashi, a six-time Nathan's winner attended the 2010 contest, watching from the crowd. When he ran onto the stage after the contest, he resisted intervention and was forcibly taken into custody by police. On August 5, 2010 all charges against Kobayashi were dismissed by a judge in Brooklyn.
On July 4, 2011, in an effort to get publicity, the owner of the Rooftop Garden Bar and Penthouse Lounge in New York City arranged a hot dog eating event featuring Takeru Kobayashi, which took place at the same time as the annual Nathan's Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest. (The official count of Nathan's hot dogs eaten by Kobayashi was 69, a new world record, compared to Joey Chestnut, who consumed 62.) Chestnut, the former world record holder, told reporters, "I think even Kobayashi would agree that the record still stands at 68. And if he wants to compete with me on the Fourth of July, he knows what he has to do - sign a simple contract and man up"- stating his opinionated advice to the press, without having researched the contract or condition between Kobayashi and MLE.
On June 30, 2012 Kobayashi revealed the MLE contract he was required to sign in order to compete in Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog eating competition. The year-long contract limited him to $40,000 and took away any rights to endorse or engage in anything outside of what MLE mandated.
After leaving MLE, Kobayashi has been featured on Late Night with Jimmy Falon, MTV After Hours With Josh Horowitz, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and The Wendy Williams Show, and he has also been featured in the commercial Eight O'Clock Coffee, and has done original features with CollegeHumor.com and SI.com, and is a featured user on the foodie mobile and web-based app Foodspotting.
After Kobayashi left Nathan's, the hot dog contest lost sponsorship from Old Navy, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Pepto-Bismol, and was down year-to-year. With an average 0.7 HH U.S. rating, it was off just a tenth of a point from 2012, when it aired on ESPN. ESPN averaged 1.949 million viewers for 2011's Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, but went down 41% to 1.15 million viewers in 2013.