‘Blind Side’ subject Michael Oher alleges adoption was a lie (2:05)
Michael Fletcher reports on retired NFL lineman Michael Oher’s petition that alleges the Tuohy family never adopted him and instead used a conservatorship to make business deals in his name. (2:05)
Michael A. Fletcher, ESPNSep 14, 2023, 07:51 PM ET
- Michael Fletcher is a senior writer with ESPN’s enterprise and investigative team. Before that, he wrote for ESPN’s The Undefeated, focusing on politics, criminal justice and social issues. He spent 21 years at The Washington Post, where his beats included the national economy, the White House and race relations.
The couple accused by retired NFL star Michael Oher of tricking him into a conservatorship shortly after he turned 18 and taking all the profits from a blockbuster film about his life filed a legal response Thursday in which they “vehemently denied” enriching themselves at Oher’s expense.
In a four-page response to a petition Oher filed in Tennessee last month, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy said the proceeds from the 2009 hit movie “The Blind Side” were divided evenly among themselves, their two children and Oher.
“All of the Tuohy family including the petitioner agreed to this arrangement, where each party would get 20% of proceeds paid,” the response said. The response went on to say the family received a portion of the $225,000 paid to acclaimed author Michael Lewis, whose best-selling book was the basis for the film.
The couple also said they received a $200,000 donation to their foundation from the film’s proceeds. Oher had the opportunity to receive the same amount for the charity of his choice but “failed to take the necessary action,” the response said.
In the legal filing, the Tuohys also denied ever telling Oher they planned to adopt him. However, they acknowledged having used the term “adopt” in a “colloquial sense” to describe their relationship with Oher. “They never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication,” the response said.
The Tuohys said in the filing that they became Oher’s conservators only so he would be eligible to play college football at the University of Mississippi, the Tuohys’ alma mater. “When it became clear that the petitioner could not consider going to the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”) as a result of living with the Respondents, the NCAA made it clear that the only way he could attend Ole Miss” was if Oher was somehow part of the family, the response said. “Conservatorship was the tool chosen to accomplish this goal.”
The story of the Tuohys and their efforts to help raise Oher out of poverty to the NFL was immortalized in the movie. Last month, Oher filed a petition in Shelby County probate court alleging that a central element of the story — that the Tuohys had adopted him — was a lie concocted by the family to enrich itself.
Instead, less than three months after Oher turned 18 in 2004, the petition said, the couple tricked him into signing a document making them his conservators, which gave them legal authority to make business deals in his name.
In his court petition, Oher asked a judge to terminate the conservatorship granted to the Tuohys in August 2004, for 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.
Attorneys for the Tuohys have said publicly that the family wants to end the conservatorship, an assertion repeated in their court filing.
“Respondents stand ready, willing, and able to terminate the conservatorship by consent at any time,” the document said.