Contracts category

Newsday on “The Good, The Bad, The Hungry”

Newsday has an article about the upcoming ESPN competitive eating documentary The Good, The Bad, The Hungry directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes which includes the following quotes from Joey Chestnut about the MLE contract.

“She opened my eyes,” Chestnut, who has won 11 of the past 12 contests, said of Haimes. “Honestly, I’m so competitive that sometimes I don’t understand what other people are going through . . . I realized doing interviews that, ‘Oh my God, I was pretty insensitive to [Kobayashi’s] problems.’

“I had the same problems when I got older. I wanted more freedom, and eventually they gave me the same things he was asking for. So it’s sad that we had to lose years of competing against each other . . . . When he decided to protest his contract, I saw that as a way of not competing, a reason not to compete.

“But later I thought it took some serious guts to step away from the biggest contest of the year, and something you love. He loves it. He loves it as much as I do . . . If we had communicated more we could have helped him to solve his contract issue and continued competing against each other.”

Fink Beats the Stomach’s latest podcast includes a review of the documentary.

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Joey Chestnut did an interview for CBS Local about The Good, The Bad, The Hungry. He is more sympathetic to Takeru Kobayashi's grievances that he has previously been saying (around 7:20) "There are things he was right about. The contract needed to change." He also talks about the Wing Bowl and The Amazing race and announces the ESPN air date for the documentary as July 2.
In a new video, Raina Huang says she declined to sign the MLE contract before the Nathan's Qualifier at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA, which was a prerequisite for competing. A printed copy of that document was not availabe for her; the only copy was on a phone screen.

Sports Illustrated on post-MLE Kobayashi

Sports Illustrated has a long article on the state of Kobayashi’s post-MLE career and the devolution of his relationship with that organizaion. He is unwilling to go near Nathan’s Coney Island store despite living in Brooklyn. The article mentions plans for a big Chicago eating contest this year that fell through. Pat Bertoletti makes a cameo:
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The new poll asks who you think is better off signing the MLE contract. My understanding of the standard contract (which might be wrong) is that signees give up not only the right to participate in non-MLE eating contests and challenges, but cannot earn money from food / restaurant marketing without permission. In return, they receive a higher chance of getting contests spots, a ranking and travel expenses, but get nothing guaranteed.
(semi off-topic) The New York Times has an article on General Mills' desire to void the right to take legal action against the cereal manufacturer for people who download coupons, like the company's Facebook page or participate in its contests. (via @binarybits)
CBS' Tailgate Fan blog claims that MLE desires a monopoly over competitive eating and says the organization "does not seem to want you to have any food-related fun outside of its sponsored events".
The Atlantic has an analysis of the standoff between Takeru Kobayashi and Major League Eating.
In a comment on his facebook page, Pat Bertoletti says he does not expect to return to Major League Eating, citing contract issues for the termination of the relationship.

B for Banishment: Bertoletti, Brown, Biller out of MLE top 50, Miki Sudo #7

update May 10 Rake & Herald has a post about the new rankings containing an interview with Pat Bertoletti who says he declined to extend his MLE contract due to issues it was causing with the Glutton Force Five food truck and his “Stuffed” youtube series. He says he might have competed in his last eating contest.

Flashback: November GQ article where Pat Bertoletti says he is contemplating retirement. ( Joey Chestnut also says he is considering retiring after the 2013 Nathan’s finals)

update May 9 Flashback to the Spring 2010 top 10 Half are apparently no longer with MLE ( Kobayashi (#3) Pat Bertoletti (#4) Ben Monson (#7) Hall Hunt (#9) Tim Brown (#10) )

Miki Sudo noticed that the MLE top 50 was updated today. The new top 10:
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SBNation.com: contract offered Kobayashi did not pay out prizes

Amy K. Nelson has an article for SBNation.com to accompany yesterday’s interview of Kobayashi which has more information about the contract Takeru Kobayashi rejected in 2010:

[George] Shay [sic] contends that they offered Kobayashi a contract of over $100,000 that would cover four events in 2010, and that, win or lose at Nathan’s, Kobayashi would walk away with a guaranteed $25,000, in essence a flat appearance fee. Any prize monies awarded by the holder of the event would be recouped by MLE.

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TheScore.com interviews Takeru Kobayashi

TheScore.com has an interview with Takeru Kobayashi (via FreeKobayashi twitter), who has the following things to say about his former organization:

He also says that MLE has a tendency to send packages of eaters to particular events, with an eye towards tilting the balance towards favoured competitors.

“If they want one character to win [a particular contest]… They choose which [other] players are going to go there… and they can prevent other players who actually want be at that contest from going,” Kobayashi said through James.

That said, he’s quite emphatic in stating that he’s not accusing the competitive eating circuit of being fixed, just that the deck is occasionally stacked in favour of certain eaters.

“No, it’s not [fixed], but in their organization, on their terms… it’s close to being that way. They control it the way that they want it.”

The interview also mentions a thwarted deal with Johnsonville Sausages. (Kobayashi competed in an IFOCE Johnsonville bratwurst contest in 2006.)

“Johnsonville Sausages, for example, contacted Kobi and wanted to work with him… and he wanted to work with them, but he couldn’t,” James says. “They were holding him down, like ‘No… unless they go through us, you can’t work with them,’ which was heinous to him, because he had an agency in Japan that he was with… He didn’t belong to [MLE,] but they came up out of the blue and said ‘We own you, and we’re going to make people sign through us if they want anything to do with you.’”

The article lists Don Povia of HHR Media Group as Kobayashi’s manager. The HHR stands for HuggingHaroldReyndold.com, which Povia co-founded.

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IFOCE non-compete clause

The non-compete clause in the IFOCE contract appears in the video played at Kobayashi’s event on July 4 at the 3:30 mark and can be viewed after the jump.
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Ken Hoffman of the Houston Chronicle calls Takeru Kobayashi's refusal to sign the IFOCE contract "union busting".

Kobayashi calls IFOCE contract a “slave contract”

AOL Weird News has an article about Takeru Kobayashi being removed from the Nathan’s “Wall of Fame” which includes the following statement from Kobayashi via his translator Maggie James:

By not signing their contract, they will erase you from the wall. They are not deep about the spirit of history. They do as they wish. They are not presenting a contract that protects the league as a whole. They only present individual slave contracts which control each player in their category of value. Nothing protects the sport.

A picture of the old wall with Kobayashi still appears on the Nathan’s Famous facebook page.

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CalorieLab lists Takeru Kobayashi's contract dispute with Major League Eating at #2 in in its list of top 10 Offbeat CalorieLab blog entries of 2010.
The new poll asks how many of the current IFOCE top 50 do you think have done non-IFOCE contests or challenges without approval after signing their IFOCE contracts.
CalorieLab interviewed Mark Conrad, associate professor of business law at Fordham University School of Business and author of The Business of Sports: A Primer for Journalists about the IFOCE contract. Conrad says thinks the contract might be an antitrust violation, but is unable to decide without seeing the entire document.
In a comment to William Saletan's column about competitive eating for Slate, Conan776 compares the IFOCE contract to the World Poker Tour release forms. Several poker pros sued the World Poker Tour over the release forms, which resulted in an out of court settlement and a change in the release forms for all entrants.
Eat This Book, published in 2006 by Ryan Nerz (an IFOCE employee at the time) has a chapter about the IFOCE contract and the competitive eaters who refused to sign it which can be read on Google Books. Calorie Lab has a post about competitive eating contracts (via gastroboy).

CalorieLab on Kobayashi contract dispute

CalorieLab has been in contact with Takeru Kobayashi’s publicists and has produced several posts about his contractual issues. In one post, explains Kobayashi’s grievances and contradicts the claim that the new contract is similar to previously signed documents:

He says that previous contracts only prohibited him from appearing in eating contests that weren’t sponsored by the MFE or its sister organization the International Federation of Competitive Eating without IFOCE permission. They did not prohibit Mr. Kobayashi from appearing in television or radio commercials or from appearing on television and radio shows.

Kobayashi also claims that the contract prohibits him from appearing on Japanese competitive eating television programs, which would explain his absence from “Gluttonous King” and similar shows. (There is no restriction on Japanese appearances. This was translated incorrectly.)

In another post, Kobayashi says he would be willing to compete tomorrow with no appearance fee if the exclusitivity requirement is also dropped.

update In the most recent post, Kobayashi describes his new immigration status after moving to New York City earlier this year.

He decided to try to obtain a visa on his own, and he took it upon himself to apply for and ultimately receive an O-1 visa. The IFOCE, in the form of George and Richard Shea, the publicists behind MLE and the IFOCE, didn’t take kindly to this development, since being Mr. Kobayashi’s visa sponsor had given them a considerable degree of control over Mr. Kobayashi’s U.S. activities. A free agent Kobayashi roaming around the United States, was worrisome. Thus the MLE’s more restrictive and hardline contract proposal to Mr. Kobayashi.

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Kobayashi blogs on contract dispute

Takeru Kobayashi recently posted a blog entry about declining to extend his IFOCE contract which has the English title “My freedom”. (automatically translated)

As long as the body, I thought I want to continue playing, in order to obtain a license in this league, you have to sign the contract situation is more severe than ever have.

You can not eat hot dogs in front of the media, they appeared on television without permission, you can not eat that early performances.

Kobayashi mentions visa issues play a role in his rejection of the contract.

(The blog is on Japanese time so the date is July 3)

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The Wall Street Journal has a video of an interview with Takeru Kobayashi where he explains his contract dispute. Kobayashi says that the IFOCE contract prevents him from doing anything food-related in the United States or Canada without approval. update The Wall Street Journal also has a blog entry with a quote from Tim "Gravy" Brown.

Kobayashi: “They (MLE) are trying to take away my freedom”

Kobayashi did an interview with the New York Daily News, where he says restriction from competing in in non-IFOCE contests is the reason why he is not extending his contract.

“They want complete control over me,” he told the Daily News. “I just want to compete and do what I love. They are trying to take away my freedom.”

Kobayashi says that he is training as if he will compete Sunday

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ESPN: Kobayashi not scheduled to compete in 2010 Nathan’s

update The new poll asks what you think Kobayashi’s future in competitive eating will be.

ESPN Sportcenter recently announced that Takeru Kobayashi has failed to reach a contract agreement with Major League Eating and is not scheduled to appear in the July 4 contest. This will end his streak at 9 contests (6 victories) if he does not compete.

An official article has not been released. Use twitter search for “Kobayashi” if you need verification.

update Fanhouse has a blog entry raising the possibility that the contract dispute is a publicity stunt.

Deadspin has a blog entry with Richard Shea’s statement.

update #2 IFOCE.com has a post consisting solely of Richard Shea’s statement

update #3 The Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis blog has an entry noting that the MLE contract does not offer a guaranteed payout.

update #4 Kobayashi’s blog makes no mention of a contract dispute. The most recent entry (June 24) talks about received the book Tacky the Penguin from Crazy Legs Conti.

update #5 CSNBayArea has an interview with Joey Chestnut (link fixed, thanks gastroboy)

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