The decade's most triggering comedy
A retired professional football player whose life story became the basis for the Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side,” says the white, wealthy family who took him in never actually adopted him, as the film suggests.
Michael Oher, now 37, has filed a petition in Shelby County, Tennessee, probate court, alleging that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy never adopted him after bringing him into their home when he was a teenager, ESPN reported. In the 14-page petition, Oher alleges that less than three months after he turned 18 in 2004, the Tuohys tricked him into signing a document that made them his conservators – not his adopted parents – thereby giving them legal authority to make financial decisions in his name.
Oher also alleges that the Tuohys used their conservatorship to make millions for themselves and their two birth children from royalties collected from the book and movie. In his petition, he says he received no money for the story, which “would not have existed without him.” To this day, the Tuohys claim Oher as their adopted son and use that narrative to promote their foundation and Leigh Anne’s motivational books and speaking tours.
“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 former offensive tackle wrote in the petition. “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.”
The Tuohys’ attorney, Steve Farese, told ESPN that the family would file a legal response to Oher’s claims within weeks.
Sean Touhy told the Daily Memphian that the family “didn’t make any money off the movie” but did make money from the book it was based on, written by Michael Lewis.
“We’re devastated,” Sean told the outlet. “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.”
Oher is asking the Tennessee court to end the conservatorship and prohibit the Tuohys from continuing to use his name and likeness, as well as a full accounting of the money they earned from selling his story. He is requesting his share of the profits, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
“Since at least August of 2004, Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control,” the petition says, according to ESPN. “All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”
Oher signed the conservatorship papers when he was still a senior in high school. He previously wrote in his best-selling memoir “I Beat the Odds” that the Tuohys had told him there really wasn’t a difference between adoption and conservatorship.
“They explained to me that it means pretty much the exact same thing as ‘adoptive parents,’ but that the laws were just written in a way that took my age into account,” Oher wrote in 2011.
In reality, conservatorship didn’t make Oher a legal member of the Tuohy family, nor did it allow him to make his own financial decisions, even as an adult with no physical or psychological disabilities.
Oher alleges in the legal filing that the Tuohys and their two birth children were each paid $225,000 and 2.5% of the film’s “defined net proceeds,” which resulted in millions of dollars from a movie that grossed more than $300 million worldwide, according to IMDb.
The Tuohys previously wrote in their own 2010 book “In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving” that they received a flat fee for the story and didn’t receive any profits from the movie, and what money they did receive, they shared with Oher.
Oher says in his court petition that he never received any of this money.