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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
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Why is former NFL star Michael Oher suing the family portrayed in The Blind Side?

Oher claims that the Tuohy family did not adopt him, but rather placed him in a legal conservatorship.

YOU MAY BE wondering why an NFL footballer who played his last game in 2016, and the film about him which was released over a decade ago, is in the news.

Michael Oher’s early life and football career was chronicled in ‘The Blind Side’, which depicted a wealthy Tennessee family taking him in as one of their own and nurturing his potential to go all the way to the top of American football.

However Oher’s lawsuit says the premise of the film – his adoption by the family – is false.

Oher, who won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, has accused Leigh Anne Tuohy and her husband Sean Tuohy of tricking him into signing away control of his financial affairs.

He also alleged the Tuohys misled him into believing he had been legally adopted by the couple when in fact they had established a conservatorship.

The Tuohys deny any wrongdoing.


‘The Blind Side’ – which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar – has previously been criticised for being inaccurate, with Oher himself saying it portrayed him as unintelligent, which negatively affected his career.

It was also blasted for perpetuating the “white saviour” trope: Oher has said it is not true, for example, that he did not know how to play football until he met the Tuohys.

‘The Blind Side’ earned more than $300 million at the box office and earned a best actress Oscar for Sandra Bullock, who played Leigh Anne Tuohy.

The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the conservatorship, adds that the Tuohys used their control of Oher’s affairs to rake in millions of dollars from the success of the film.

“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.

“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 adds.


As well as dissolving the Tuohys’ conservatorship, the filing also seeks to bar them from using Oher’s name and likeness.

Oher is also seeking to receive a share of profits he claims not to have been paid in addition to financial and compensatory damages.

Sean Tuohy said his family was “devastated” by the claims.

“It’s upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children,” Tuohy told the Daily Memphian newspaper in Tennessee.

Tuohy did admit that the conservatorship over Oher’s affairs, but said the agreement was only made in good faith after legal advice. Oher’s biological mother had attended the court hearing to formalise the conservatorship, he added.

Tuohy also maintained that the family had made little money from the success of ‘The Blind Side’.

The movie was based on the journalist Michael Lewis’s 2006 book of the same name.

“We didn’t make any money off the movie,” Tuohy said. “Well, Michael Lewis gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000 each.”

On Wednesday, the couple’s attorneys, Steven Farese Sr. and Randall Fishman, pushed back forcefully at Oher’s claims, saying the Tuohys had never taken any of Oher’s career earnings, from the movie or otherwise.

“Mr Oher picked his own agent when he turned pro, Mr Oher signed his own contract and negotiated it through his agent … (the Tuohys) did not share in his monies, they did not control any shoe contracts, anything of that nature.

“The Tuohys treated him like a son. They loved him.”

Farese noted that Sean Tuohy was independently wealthy in his own right, and had sold a chain of fast-food restaurants for $220 million.

“They don’t need his money. They’ve never needed his money,” Farese said.

Accounting statements

Another attorney for the Tuohys, Marty Singer, said in a statement that claims the couple had withheld money from Oher were “hurtful and absurd.”

“The evidence – documented in profit participation checks and studio accounting statements – is clear: over the years, the Tuohys have given Mr. Oher an equal cut of every penny received from ‘The Blind Side,’” Singer said.

Michael Lewis said he and the Tuohy family received around $350,000 each from the profits of the movie, which was shared evenly.

“What I feel really sad about is I watched the whole thing up close,” Lewis told the Washington Post on Wednesday.

“They showered him with resources and love. That he’s suspicious of them is breathtaking. The state of mind one has to be in to do that — I feel sad for him.”

Additional reporting by AFP ©

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