Michael Oher, ‘The Blind Side’ Subject, Says He Was Tricked Into Signing Away His Rights While Family Profited

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Former NFL player Michael Oher, who served as the inspiration for the 2009 biographical sports drama The Blind Side, claims that he was never legally adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and was instead tricked into signing away his rights.

As reported by ESPN, Oher filed a petition in Shelby County, Tennessee on Monday and alleged that the Tuohys never adopted him, and instead made him sign a document that made them his conservators. The document, which he signed three months after he turned 18, gave them authority to make business deals under his name, effectively giving them all the proceeds from his labor and the use of his likeness.

Oher has also alleged that the Tuohys, through the use of their conservatorship of him, made a deal with the producers of the Oscar-winning film to get them and their two biological children millions of dollars in royalties. By comparison, he said he got nothing, despite how the movie could “not have existed without him.” The Tuohys have continued to call Oher their adopted son in the years since, which he argued helped promote Leigh Anne Tuohy’s books and career as a motivational speaker.

“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,” reads the legal filing. “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.”

Oher is seeking to end the conservatorship and bar the Tuohys from using his name and likeness again. The petition is also calling for him to receive his share of profits as well as further compensatory and punitive damages. Oher added that the Tuohys suggested there wasn’t any difference between conservatorship and adoption.

The legal filing states that the Tuohys and their children were paid $225,000 each and 2.5 percent of its net proceeds. They profited from the film, which grossed over $300 million, but signed a 2007 contract that essentially gave away the life rights to his story without any compensation. He does not recall signing the contract and said that if he did, in fact, sign it then it was presented to him under disingenuous circumstances.

“Mike’s relationship with the Tuohy family started to decline when he discovered that he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent,” said his attorney, J. Gerard Stranch IV. “Their relationship continued to deteriorate as he learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks from the movie, and it was permanently fractured when he realized he wasn’t adopted and a part of the family.”

Oher was portrayed by Quinton Aaron in the film, which was accused of perpetuating negative racial stereotypes. Leigh Anne Tuohy was played by Sandra Bullock, who won an Academy Award. Oher has notably criticized The Blind Side for depicting him as “dumb” rather than a kid who, as he put it, “never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it,” as he wrote in his book I Beat The odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond.

In his new book, When Your Back’s Against the Wall, he said that there’s “so much” about the movie that he’s “grateful for,” but it also has been “a large source of some of my deepest hurt and pain over the past 14 years.” He added, “Beyond the details of the deal, the politics, and the money behind the book and movie, it was the principle of the choices some people made that cut me the deepest.”