Joey Chestnut said Tuesday that he “felt bad” for putting a protester in a headlock during the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Monday afternoon.
Chestnut was seen grabbing a protest in the middle of a competition and ripping him to the ground. The vicious chokehold drew plenty of attention on social media, though the moment wasn’t actually shown on ESPN.
“As soon as I grabbed the guy, I realized he was a kid,” Chestnut said, via USA Today. “I felt bad afterwards. I was just amped up, just focused on getting back to eating. I wish it didn’t happen. It’s a bummer.”
The protester, per USA Today, was 21-year-old Scott Gilbertson who was working with Direct Action Everywhere. He was charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and harassment.
Gilbertson was wearing a Darth Vader mask when he ran on stage.
“I was freaked out a little big because he had the mask on,” Chestnut said, via USA Today. “I saw the mask and I think that’s when I realized he doesn’t belong here.”
Gilbertson said he wasn’t sure who actually threw him to the ground until he saw the video later.
“I felt like it was unnecessary for sure,” Gilbertson said, via USA Today. “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 … I don’t really have anything against Joey as a person. I was just trying to get my message out there and my organization’s message out there. I wasn’t trying to nudge him. I had the mask on and my peripheral vision was hindered … I can understand, I guess, why he may have overreacted.”
While the incident slowed Chestnut down, he still downed 63 hot dogs and buns and claimed his 15th title.
“For the most part, my family, they’re happy that I didn’t let it bother me and I was able to keep going,” he said, via USA Today.