Michael Oher (Photo from Oher's Facebook)
On Monday, former Ole Miss and NFL star Micheal Oher filed a petition to end a conservatorship he has been under, claiming that the feel-good story of his adoption that inspired the Oscar winning film “The Blind Side” was a lie.
According to a report by ESPN, in a recent lawsuit, former Ole Miss and NFL star Micheal Oher, who inspired the book and film “The Blind Side,” alleges that parts of the story, most notably his adoption, were a lie.
The 14-page petition was filed in Shelby County, Tennessee, and alleges that the Tuohy family, who has become famous for their story of taking Oher in as a high school student, never actually adopted Oher. Instead, the suit alleges that the couple tricked Oher into signing a conservatorship, giving them full legal authority to make business deals in Oher’s name.
Further, the petition alleges that the Tuohys used this move and their power as Oher’s conservators to enrich themselves at Oher’s expense. The suit claims that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy used their legal authority to close a deal earning them and their birth children millions of dollars in royalties from the Oscar winning film.
Oher claims he sees no revenue from the movie about his story that earned over $300 million at the box office and “could not exist without him.”
In the years since the events and release of the film, the Tuohys have continued to refer to Oher as their son. Oher claims they have promoted this lie in order to promote their foundation, authorial careers, and motivational speaking business.
The petition asks the court to end the conservatorship and bar the Tuohy family from using Oher’s name and likeness. It also seeks to get Oher his fair share of the money they have already earned.
The petition alleges that the Tuohy family negotiated a movie deal about their relationship with Oher shortly after the release of a book in 2006 chronicling the story. Allegedly, the movie paid out $225,000, plus 2.5% of the “net proceeds” to each member of the Tuohy family.
Just after turning 18 in 2004, Oher, a high school senior, was allegedly tricked into signing documents that placed him in a conservatorship. He was told these documents were essentially the same as adoption papers and would be no different, as he wrote in his memoir “I Beat the Odds.”
If this had been the case, Oher says that he would have become a legal member of the family and retained the power to manage his own financial and business affairs. Instead, Oher claims he unknowingly surrendered that authority to the Tuohy family. Believing that he was now an adopted member of the family, Oher lived with the Tuohys until graduating high school and then headed to Ole Miss to play college football.
After Oher became a standout football talent at Ole Miss and in the NFL, the movie chronicling his rise from homeless high schooler to NFL star saw enormous commercial success. “The Blind Side” grossed over $300 million at the box office and was nominated for Best Picture in the 2010 Oscars. Sandra Bullock ended up taking home the Oscar for Best Actress in her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy. Behind the scenes, the Tuohy family allegedly had already agreed to deals for them and their biological children to profit from the film. Furthermore, according to Monday’s petition, another separate 2007 contract gave over full rights of Ohers’s story to 20th Century Fox, but Oher has no recollection of signing this contract and claims it is another predatory deal.
In the past, the Tuohy family has denied profiting from the film, even stating in their 2010 book that the money was split with Oher. In the petition, Oher claims he never received any money from the movie, even though he has long suspected others were profiting from it. Due to the success of the movie coinciding with his NFL career in 2009, Oher was not able to fully investigate these deals and claims that when he did ask questions, he did not receive straight answers.
After retiring in 2016, Oher eventually hired a lawyer to help him uncover and make sense of the legal documents and details surrounding the movie deals and his believed adoptive parents. Instead, this lawyer unearthed the conservatorship document this past February, making it clear to Oher he was never actually adopted. Unfortunately, these allegations and this petition are a sharp contrast to the feel-good story that comes to mind when we think of “The Blind Side.”
According to ESPN, after the success of the film, Oher’s relationship with and trust of the Tuohys began to sour. First, it was revealed that Oher took issue with his depiction in the film, believing it made him seem unintelligent. He believes that this hurt his football career and changed people’s perceptions of him. According to Oher, some NFL executives believed he didn’t have leadership skills or thought he was mentally slow due to the movie.
ESPN notes that a legal response from the Tuohy family should be expected in the coming weeks, according to their attorney.