Michael Oher, whose life provided the inspiration for the well-received movie ‘The Blind Side,’ has lodged a formal plea in a Tennessee court, asserting that he was never genuinely adopted by the Tuohy family. Instead, he alleges that they utilized a conservatorship arrangement to capitalize on his narrative and accumulate wealth.
Michael Oher, the ex-NFL athlete whose experiences loosely influenced the popular 2009 film The Blind Side, is voicing his concerns regarding Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple with whom he resided during a portion of his high school and college years. According to both the film and the book upon which it’s based (authored by Michael Lewis), the Tuohys adopted Oher, playing a pivotal role not only in his introduction to football but also in aiding his academic progress through high school and facilitating his entry into college, positioning him for a future in the NFL. Oher contends that he was never formally adopted; rather, he claims that he was placed under a conservatorship, a legal arrangement that allowed the Tuohys to leverage his story for financial gain, amassing millions of dollars in the process.
This is not the first time Oher has referred to the content of the movie as being heavily fictionalized. In his book I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond, Oher wrote, “I felt like it [the movie] portrayed me as dumb instead of as a kid who had never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it.”
In a comprehensive 14-page submission to a Tennessee probate court, Oher asserts that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy never legally adopted him. The petition alleges that, three months after Oher turned 18 in 2004, the Tuohys manipulated him into signing a document that designated them as his conservators, subsequently granting them legal authority to engage in business dealings under his name.
According to Oher’s claims, the Tuohys and their biological children exploited the conservatorship terms, profiting immensely from The Blind Side, while Oher himself received no compensation.
The film garnered over $300 million in box office revenue, produced on a budget of under $30 million, and garnered numerous accolades. It was among a series of movies released in quick succession that elevated Sandra Bullock to a position of prominence in Hollywood for a period of time. The film’s prominence further contributed to Leigh Anne’s success as an author and motivational speaker. The Tuohys also established a charitable organization, the Making It Happen Foundation, where their adoption of Oher constitutes a significant part of their narrative.
“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.”
Conservatorships, similar to the one Oher alleges, have gained increased attention in recent times, mainly due to the controversy surrounding pop icon Britney Spears’ conservatorship that lasted from 2008 to 2021.
While the Tuohys have refuted claims that their wealth resulted solely from the movie, remarks made to the Daily Memphian (via ESPN) do not challenge Oher’s contentions concerning the adoption and conservatorship.
“We’re devastated,” Sean Tuohy said. “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.”
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