The Tuohy family, who took in former NFL player Michael Oher and inspired the 2009 movie The Blind Side, have rejected his accusations that they deceived him into a conservatorship that allowed them to profit from his life story. The Tuohys’ lawyer, Martin Singer, issued a statement on Tuesday, calling Oher’s claims “hurtful and absurd” and saying that they were the victims of a “$15 million shakedown” by Oher.
Singer said that Oher had demanded $15 million from the Tuohys and threatened to “plant a negative story” in the press about them if they did not comply. He also said that the Tuohys had given Oher an equal share of the royalties from the movie, which grossed over $300 million worldwide, and that they had never sought to exploit him.
“Anyone with a modicum of common sense can see that the outlandish claims made by Michael Oher about the Tuohy family are hurtful and absurd. The idea that the Tuohys have ever sought to profit off Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous,” Singer said in the statement.
Oher files a petition to end the conservatorship
Oher, who played for the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers in his nine-year NFL career, filed a petition in a Tennessee court on Monday to end the conservatorship that was granted to Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy in 2004, when he was 18 years old and a high school football star. Oher alleged that he was misled by the Tuohys into believing that the conservatorship was a form of adoption and that it gave them the authority to make business deals on his behalf without his consent.
Oher claimed that he learned in February 2023 that the Tuohys had never legally adopted him as they had publicly claimed for years. He also claimed that he received nothing for his rights to his story, which was adapted into a book by Michael Lewis and then into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw as the Tuohys.
“The Tuohys have exploited Mr. Oher’s life story for their own personal gain while depriving him of any meaningful participation or compensation,” the petition stated.
The Blind Side movie sparks controversy
The Blind Side movie, which was released in 2009, was a critical and commercial success. It earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won Bullock her first Oscar for Best Actress. It also received praise for its uplifting message of family, faith and football.
However, the movie also faced criticism for its portrayal of race, class and sports. Some critics argued that it perpetuated stereotypes of Black athletes as helpless and dependent on White saviors. Others questioned the accuracy and authenticity of Oher’s story and the Tuohys’ motives.
Oher himself has expressed mixed feelings about the movie and its impact on his life. In his 2011 memoir “I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond”, he wrote that he appreciated the movie for raising awareness about foster care and adoption, but he also felt that it exaggerated his struggles and diminished his achievements.
“I felt like it portrayed me as dumb instead of as a kid who had never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it,” he wrote. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am.”