As a high school student in 2004, Oher signed the paperwork, believing it was part of the adoption process, according to his petition filed in a Tennessee probate court. He realized in February that the paperwork stripped away his rights, the petition says.
Oher, 37, is requesting that the court terminate the Tuohys’ conservatorship. Oher alleges that he never received money for the film about his life, and he’s asking the Tuohy family to pay him a portion of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they received off his name and story.
“Where other parents of Michael’s classmates saw Michael simply as a nice kid in need, Conservators Sean Tuohy and Leigh Ann Tuohy saw something else: a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit,” states the petition, which was filed in Shelby County, Tenn.
Steven Farese Jr., an attorney representing the Tuohys, declined to comment when reached by The Washington Post.
The Tuohys did not respond to requests for comment Monday night, but Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian that he would discontinue Oher’s conservatorship. He told the newspaper that his family received money from Michael Lewis, the author of “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” — a book the movie was based on — that was divided among himself, his wife, his two children and Oher. He said everyone received about $14,000 each.
“We’re devastated,” he told 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.”
Sean Tuohy Jr., Leigh Anne and Sean’s son, told Barstool Sports on Monday that he has made about $65,000 from the movie in the past four or five years.
In a statement to ABC24, Oher described the revelations as “a difficult situation for my family and me.”
“For now, I will let the lawsuit speak for itself and will offer no further comment,” he added.
Oher wrote about his unstable childhood in Memphis in his 2011 memoir, “I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond.” He wrote that his mother was addicted to crack and that he and his siblings were placed into foster care. Oher attended 11 schools in his first nine years as a student, according to the New York Times.
Oher was recruited to play football at a private high school and developed into one of the country’s top offensive lineman recruits. He slept at classmates’ homes, including at the Tuohys’ house with their two children, who attended the same school as Oher, the petition says.
Before Oher’s senior year in 2004, the Tuohys asked him to move into their Memphis home and said they would adopt him, according to the petition. Hoping to speed along the process, Oher signed paperwork that turned out to be conservatorship papers, the petition alleges. The Tuohys never took legal action to adopt Oher, the petition says.
Under Tennessee law, a conservatorship removes decision-making powers from someone “who lacks capacity to make decisions.”
“The Tuohys did tell Michael they loved him and that they intended to legally adopt him,” the petition states. “Michael believed them, was delighted to be part of a real and stable family, and trusted Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy completely.”
Oher began playing at the University of Mississippi in 2005. In September 2006, a book about Oher’s life, “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Lewis was published. A spokesperson for Lewis did not respond to a request for comment Monday night.
After the book’s release, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy began negotiating a movie deal that gave them and their biological children each $225,000 and 2.5 percent of the film’s proceeds, according to Oher’s petition. In 2007, Oher signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox that, unbeknownst to him, gave away the rights to his story without payment, the petition alleges.
In “The Blind Side,” which grossed more than $300 million, the Tuohys adopt Oher. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for best picture, and Sandra Bullock won the Academy Award for best actress for portraying Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Oher’s petition alleges that the Tuohys said they had adopted him “to gain financial advantages for themselves.”
Oher became an All-American offensive tackle before graduating in 2009, and he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft. He was part of the team that won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 before playing for the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers.
In 2015, Oher told ESPN that he disliked how he was portrayed in the movie. He said he became known for the film instead of for his skills, which he claimed hurt his NFL career. He hasn’t played in the league since the Panthers released him in July 2017.
Oher has since investigated the papers he signed as a teenager and hired a lawyer, ESPN reported.
“The Tuohys have falsely and publicly represented themselves as the adoptive parents of Michael,” the petition states, “continuing to the date of the filing of this petition.”