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Hot Dog Champ Joey Chestnut Regrets Putting Protester in Headlock

As has become a great American tradition, Joey Chestnut once again won the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest on Monday. But in winning his 15th title in 16 years on July 4, Chestnut had to deal with an unexpected protester who worked his way on stage as the 38-year-old was chowing down.

Instead of security getting involved with the incident, Chestnut took matters into his own hands by putting the protester, who was wearing Star Wars garb, in a headlock before throwing him to the side and continuing eating.

But on Tuesday, Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports that he wished he would not have behaved that way toward the protester, calling it an “unfortunate” situation.

“As soon as I grabbed the guy, I realized he was a kid,” Chestnut said, per USA TODAY Sports. “I felt bad afterwards. I was just amped up, just focused on getting back to eating. … It’s a bummer.”

The protester was identified as 21-year-old Scott Gilbertson, who was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct and harassment according to the New York Police Department. Gilbertson was part of a trio of protesters holding signs that read “Expose Smithfield’s Death Star,” a protest against pork producer Smithfield Foods.

Because Gilbertson had a mask on, he said he didn’t realize that he’d made his way next to Chestnut. After being put in a headlock, Gilbertson told USA TODAY Sports that he thought Chestnut was a “security guard” and that he felt Chestnut’s reaction was unnecessary.

“I was surprised,” Gilbertson said, per USA TODAY Sports.

Chestnut ate 63 hot dogs in the contest, 13 fewer than he did last year but still 15.5 more than runner-up Jeffrey Esper, to win the event for the seventh consecutive year.