Mark Wahlberg incited controversy after presenting a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award to the “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (“EEAAO”) cast on Sunday evening.
“EEAAO” and its cast have continued their trend of dominating award shows this new year, receiving a total of four SAG Awards. Three of the film’s leading stars — Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Huy Quan — received individual acting awards. The entire “EEAAO” cast later joined the trio on stage to receive the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture SAG award.
However, Wahlberg’s role in presenting the award for “EEAAO’s” predominantly Asian cast quickly caught the attention of many online who criticized his involvement because of his attack on a pair of Vietnamese men when he was younger.
“It must have been quite a shock for Mark Wahlberg to witness a group of Asians beating white people,” writer Jeff Yang said on Twitter.
It must have been quite a shock for Mark Wahlberg to witness a group of Asians beating white people #SAGAwards2023 pic.twitter.com/ZS5wW3cg5s
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) February 27, 2023
I gotta say, having Mark Wahlberg, who literally went to jail as a teen for committing a hate crime against a Vietnamese man, present an award to the cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once was certainly a choice
— Bonnie Stiernberg (@aahrealbonsters) February 27, 2023
now why would they get mark wahlberg to present this to the Asian cast of EEAAO… #SAGAwards pic.twitter.com/9kFbsrBg5u
— lizzy (@meadowiIton) February 27, 2023
As a teenager, Wahlberg was revealed to have a history of racially motivated crimes.
While living in Boston in the 1980s, Wahlberg was charged twice with race-related hate crimes.
His first charge was the result of a civil action after the then-15-year-old harassed a group of Black children by yelling racial slurs and throwing rocks.
His second charge occurred in 1988, when Wahlberg, who was 16 at the time, physically assaulted two Vietnamese men while on PCP in separate attacks on the same day. Wahlberg was reported to have called the first man, Thahn Lam, “Vietnam fucking sh*t” while knocking him unconscious with a wooden stick. Wahlberg punched the second man, army veteran Hoa Trinh, and called him “gook” and “slant eye” while trying to steal beer.
Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder for the attack but would plead guilty to felony assault. The actor also denied accusations that the attack was race related. Although Wahlberg was sentenced to two years in prison on two counts of assault and battery, he would serve a total of 45 days.
In 2014, Wahlberg addressed his actions in an attempt to seek a pardon for his felony convictions, which would remove the event from his criminal records.
“I am deeply sorry for the actions that I took on the night of April 8, 1988, as well as for any lasting damage that I may have caused the victims,” he wrote.
In 2020, the actor would return to clarify his stance on the event in an interview with The Guardian.
[I] did the work. I took it upon myself to own up to my mistakes and go against the grain and not be a part of the gang any more – to say that I was going to go and do my own thing … whatever path I was going to take, I was going to do the right thing. So I think no, judging a person on what he’s doing and where he’s coming from and all those things, no, I would hope that people would be able to get a second chance in life.
In 2016, Wahlberg said he met with Trinh and his family to “apologize for these horrific acts.”
Trinh has since said after the attack that he forgives the actor, and he publicly expressed support for his pardon in 2014.