Michael Oher, the former NFL player whose struggles as a teenager were chronicled in the 2009 sports drama The Blind Side, is claiming the feature’s story is based on a lie. He made the allegations in court documents he filed yesterday, the Washington Post is reporting.
The former football star further stated that the Tennessee couple who cared for him during his time high school had falsely claimed that they had legally adopted him when he was a struggling teenager. He further alleged that the couple – Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy – had him sign conservatorship papers that he didn’t realize would give them power to make business deals for him.
Oher signed the paperwork when he was a senior in high school in 2004. At the time, he believed it was part of the adoption process, according to the petition he filed in a Tennessee probate court. He added in the petition that he realized in February that the paperwork stripped away his rights.
Oher, who is now 37, is requesting that the court terminate the Tuohys’ conservatorship. To support his request, he added that that he never received money for the film, for which Sandra Bullock won the Academy Award, Golden Globe and SAG Award for Best Actress in 2010. As a result, Oher is asking the Tuohy family to pay him a portion of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they received from telling his story.
“Where other parents of Michael’s classmates saw Michael simply as a nice kid in need, Conservators Sean Tuohy and Leigh Ann Tuohy saw something else: a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit,” states the petition, which was filed in Shelby County, Tennessee.
In response to the lawsuit, Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian that he would discontinue Oher’s conservatorship. He has also admitted that his family has received money from Michael Lewis, the author of The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, the book that the movie is based on.
Sean Tuohy added that the money was divided among himself, his wife, his two children and Oher. He said everyone received about $14,000 each.
“We’re devastated,” Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian. “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.”
In a statement to ABC24, Oher described the circumstance as “a difficult situation for my family and me. For now, I will let the lawsuit speak for itself and will offer no further comment.”
The former NFL star wrote about his unstable childhood in Memphis in his 2011 memoir, I Beat the Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond. He recalled that his biological mother was addicted to crack and that he and his siblings were placed into foster care. He went on to attend 11 schools in his first nine years as a student.
The athlete was later recruited to play football at a private high school and developed into one of the country’s top offensive lineman recruits. He slept at classmates’ homes, including at the Tuohys’ house with their two children, whom he attended school with, the petition states.
Before Oher’s senior year in high school, the Tuohys asked him to move into their Memphis home and said they would adopt him, according to the petition. Hoping to speed along the process, he signed documents that unbeknownst to him, turned out to be conservatorship papers, the petition alleges.
Despite their promise, the Tuohys never actually took legal action to adopt Oher, however, the petition adds. “The Tuohys did tell Michael they loved him and that they intended to legally adopt him,” the petition also states. “Michael believed them, was delighted to be part of a real and stable family, and trusted Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy completely.”
The athlete began playing at the University of Mississippi in 2005. Lewis’ book about the football star’s life, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, was published in September 2006.
After the book was released, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy began negotiating a movie deal that gave them and their biological children each $225,000 and 2.5 percent of the feature’s proceeds, according to Oher’s petition. In 2007, he signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox that, unbeknownst to him, gave away the rights to his story without payment, the petition alleges.
In The Blind Side, which was written and directed by John Lee Hancock, the Tuohys do eventually end up adopting Oher. The latter’s petition alleges that in real life, the Tuohys only said they had adopted him in order to gain financial advantages for themselves, especially after the film grossed more than $300 million.
Oher became an all-American offensive tackle before graduating in 2009. He was then drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He was part of the team that won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 before playing for the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers.
In 2015, Oher told ESPN that he disliked how he was portrayed in the screen adaptation. He said he became more known for the film than his football skills, which he claimed hurt his NFL career. He hasn’t played in the league since the Panthers released him in July 2017.
Since then, Oher investigated the papers he signed as a teenager and hired a lawyer. “The Tuohys have falsely and publicly represented themselves as the adoptive parents of Michael, continuing to the date of the filing of this petition,” the petition states, a notion that he hopes to change in court and in public.