Michael Oher, the former NFL player whose life was the inspiration behind the 2009 film The Blind Side, has filed a petition in court which accuses Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of lying to him. Oher alleges that he was never officially adopted, but instead, was tricked into signing documents that would make the couple his legal conservators.
The Oscar-winning film follows the story of Oher, a homeless boy with immense football talent, as he is taken in by the Tuohys, a wealthy white family. A central plot point of the film is that Oher is adopted by the Tuohys and becomes a true member of the family.
The 14-page petition alleges that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy tricked him into signing a document making them his conservators less than three months after he turned 18. According to ESPN, this gave them legal authority to make business deals in his name.
The petition also alleges that the couple used their power as conservators to earn themselves, and their two birth children, millions of dollars in royalties from the film, which earned more than $462 million (USD $300 million) while Oher says he got nothing for a “story that would not have existed without him,” he said, per ESPN.
Despite not officially adopting Oher, the Tuohys have continued to refer to Oher as their adopted son.
“The lie of Michael’s adoption is one upon which Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher,” the legal filing says.
“Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the Conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact, provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”
In response to the petition, Sean Tuohy spoke to the Daily Memphian stating that he is “devastated” by the allegations.
“It’s upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children. But we’re going to love Michael at 37 just like we loved him at 16.”
“We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18. The only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship. We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court,” he said, stating that they didn’t make any money off the movie.
“We didn’t make any money off the movie,” Tuohy said.
“Well, Michael Lewis (the author of the book ‘The Blind Side’) gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each.
“We were never offered money. We never asked for money. My money is well-documented.”
Leigh Anne Tuohy is yet to comment.
The petition is a pretty upsetting end to what was thought of as a heartfelt story about love, family, and kindness. It seems up until recently, Oher truly believed he was a member of the Tuohy family. I can only imagine the devastation felt when he realised that he wasn’t technically their son at all.
According to Oher’s lawyer, his trust for the family began to wane shortly after the film.
“Mike’s relationship with the Tuohy family started to decline when he discovered that he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent,” Stranch said, as reported by ESPN.
“Their relationship continued to deteriorate as he learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks from the movie, and it was permanently fractured when he realised he wasn’t adopted and a part of the family.”
In his own book, When Your Back’s Against The Wall, Oher wrote: “There has been so much created from The Blind Side that I am grateful for, which is why you might find it as a shock that the experience surrounding the story has also been a large source of some of my deepest hurt and pain over the past 14 years.
“Beyond the details of the deal, the politics, and the money behind the book and movie, it was the principle of the choices some people made that cut me the deepest.”
What a sad turn of events.