Update, 4:45 pm: Sean Tuohy denied Oher’s allegations that the Tuohys tricked him into a conservatorship and profited off him in an interview on Monday. “We’re devastated,” he said, per 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 2010, Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side, based on the supposedly true story of a white woman in Tennessee who adopted a 17-year-old Black high school senior from a tough background and got him on the football team. It was a feel-good movie with a happy ending that framed Tuohy and her husband Sean as heroes for taking in Michael Oher, a kid who desperately needed a stable and caring family and who went on to play in the NFL.
Fourteen years after the film grossed $309 million at the box office (on a $29 million budget), making the Tuohys relatively famous and much wealthier, ESPN reported Monday that Oher filed a 14-page petition in a Tennessee probate court claiming their adoption of him was a “lie,” that they never legally made him a part of their family, and that they tricked and exploited him for profit.
“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.” In other words, he was blindsided.
The petition further claims that while the Tuohys and their two biological children have greatly profited from the film’s royalties, Oher himself didn’t get anything from the project that “would not have existed without him.”
Oher’s petition asks the court to end the Tuohys’ conservatorship and to issue an injunction barring them from using his name and likeness. It also seeks a full accounting of the money the Tuohys earned using Oher’s name, and to have the couple pay him his fair share of profits, as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“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 says. “All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”
While adoption would’ve allowed Oher, who was 18 when he said he was misled by the Tuohys into signing the papers, to make his own financial decisions, the conservatorship allegedly gave control of his finances to the Tuohys.
The Tuohy family did not respond to ESPN’s request for comment on the bombshell court filing, but I imagine that the unraveling of their white savior story, if Oher’s claims prove true, will piss off a lot of people and certainly upend Leigh Anne’s motivational speaking career, which she launched after The Blind Side’s success. I patiently await their response.