Was “The Blind Side” a Lie? Michael Oher’s Lawsuit Explained
“The Blind Side,” which netted Sandra Bullock an Oscar in 2010 for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, is framed as an inspirational true story about how Leigh Anne and her husband, Sean Tuohy, adopted a young athlete named Michael Oher who was struggling with homelessness and helped him achieve his football dreams.
But Oher is alleging that a key aspect of the film’s plot was a lie. On Aug. 14, per The New York Times, Oher, now a retired NFL athlete, petitioned a Tennessee court to terminate his legal relationship with the Tuohy family. In the petition, he claimed that the family never actually adopted him but instead urged him to enter a conservatorship, allowing them to profit off his life story.
What Are the Allegations in Michael Oher’s Lawsuit?
Oher’s petition alleges that the family tricked him into a conservatorship when he was 18 years old, instead of legally adopting him, which allowed them to make business deals in his name. Now, Oher is seeking to end the conservatorship. He is also petitioning to prevent the Tuohys from using his name and likeness and to receive profits he claims he is owed from the movie.
“Michael trusted the Tuohys and signed where they told him to sign,” the petition alleges, per CNN. “What he signed, however, and unknown to Michael until after February 2023, were not adoption papers, or the equivalent of adoption papers.”
The petition claims that the Tuohys negotiated a contract with 20th Century Fox for “The Blind Side” that awarded them $225,000 for the use of Oher’s story, as well as 2.5 percent of all “defined net proceeds” for themselves and their biological children only. The movie generated more than $300 million, and per NPR, the lawsuit alleges that while Tuohys made millions off the film, Oher never received any payment. Sean and his son, Sean Tuohy Jr., have both denied that the family’s earnings ever approached the millions.
Additionally, the petition claims that Oher allegedly signed a “Life Story Right Agreement” in 2007, per AP News, which endowed 20th Century Fox with the “perpetual, unconditional and exclusive right throughout the world to use and portray Michael Oher’s name, likeness, voice, appearance, personality, personal experiences, incidents, situations and events based upon or taken from Michael Oher’s life story.” According to AP News, Oher’s petition claims that “he at no time ever willingly or knowingly signed this document and that nobody ever presented this contract to him with any explanation that he was signing such a document, or any document concerning his rights to his name, image, and life story, to Fox or anybody else.”
Reps for Sean, Leigh Anne, Sean Tuohy Jr., and Oher did not immediately respond to POPSUGAR’s request for comment.
Has the Tuohy Family Responded to Michael Oher’s Lawsuit?
The same day the lawsuit was filed, Sean told The Daily Memphian that he was “devastated” by the news, and claimed that it was “upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children.” He also claimed that everyone in his family, including Oher, received an initial payment of $14,000 from the film. He also said that the reason he had Oher sign onto a conservatorship instead of adopting him was that he was told that Tennessee did not allow people over 18 to be adopted, though the state does, in fact, permit adult adoptions. He also said he would be willing to end the conservatorship.
Sean Tuohy Jr., the Tuohys’ biological son, also addressed the filing in an interview with Barstool Sports on Aug. 14, claiming that while he understands Oher’s frustrations, the family did not make millions off the film. “Man, if I had $2 million in my bank account, it would be in my email signature and say, ‘Signed, SJ Tuohy, multi-millionaire,'” he said on the podcast.
On Aug. 15, the Tuohy family’s attorney Marty Singer released a statement obtained by POPSUGAR that alleges that prior to filing the petition, Oher reportedly demanded that the family pay him $15 million or he would “plant a negative story about them in the press.” The statement, first shared with TMZ, also claimed the family had been “upfront about how a conservatorship . . . was established” and added that Oher had “tried to run this play” before.
Has Michael Oher Spoken Out Against “The Blind Side” Before?
Oher’s filing marks the first time he has taken legal action against the Tuohys, but he has previously expressed discomfort with “The Blind Side”‘s portrayal of him. In a 2015 interview with ESPN, he said he felt the movie downplayed his intelligence. “People look at me and they take things away from me because of a movie,” Oher said. “They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field.” He also said the movie created unrealistic expectations about his football skills. “This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not . . . that has nothing to do with football,” he added. “It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”
He also addressed the lawsuit on Aug. 14 after it began making headlines. “I am disheartened by the revelation shared in the lawsuit today. This is a difficult situation for my family and me,” he told People. “I want to ask everyone to please respect our privacy at this time. For now, I will let the lawsuit speak for itself and will offer no further comment.”
Oher played football at the University of Mississippi and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. He retired from the NFL in 2017.