The Blind Side Inspiration Michael Oher Alleges The Tuohy Family Never Adopted Him
“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, Michael Oher.”
The 2009 Oscar-winning movie The Blind Side was based on the story of former NFL tackle Michael Oher, a man who had an incredibly difficult childhood before being adopted by the Tuohy family as a high school student. Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for her portrayal of mom Leigh Ann Tuohy, and it appeared to be a wonderful story of perseverance, family, and triumph. But according to Oher, a pivotal part of that story was a lie. Oher has alleged in a new petition filed in a Tennessee probate court that the Tuohys never actually adopted him, and instead took advantage of him financially.
On Monday, Oher filed a petition against Leigh Ann and Sean Tuohy alleging that they tricked him into signing papers that would make them his conservators, giving them control over his finances a few months after he turned 18 in 2004, according to the Associated Press. Oher believed they had adopted him as a member of their family and there was virtually no difference between an adoption and conservatorship. He’s now asking the court to terminate the conservatorship.
“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 read, per NBC News. “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, who retired from the NFL in 2016, has previously written about signing the papers in his 2011 memoir I Beat The Odds. “They explained to me that it means pretty much the exact same thing as ‘adoptive parents,’ but that the laws were just written in a way that took my age into account,” he wrote at the time.
The petition claims that the Tuohys and their birth children, daughter Collins and son Sean Tuohy Jr., profited from The Blind Side, while Oher did not. Each of the family members reportedly made $225,000 each from the movie, in addition to 2.5% of the film’s sales. Oher, however, made no money from the movie due to a contract he does not recall signing, NBC News reports.
Oher’s lawyer J. Gerard Stranch IV explained to ESPN that Oher hadn’t understood the significance of the papers he was signing at the time. The conservatorship gave the Tuohys power to make decisions regarding Oher’s finances, even though he was over the age of 18. “Mike didn’t grow up with a stable family life. When the Tuohy family told Mike they loved him and wanted to adopt him, it filled a void that had been with him his entire life,” Stranch told the outlet. “Discovering that he wasn’t actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply.”
Oher, who is a married dad of four himself, was born into a troubled home as one of 12 children. His mother struggled with drug abuse while his father was murdered when he was in high school. He spent many years moving in and out of foster care and was even homeless more than once, before his athleticism landed him at Briarcrest Christian High School, where he eventually met the Tuohy family. He moved in with them when he was 16 years old, and went on to play in the NFL for several years before retiring in 2016.
For years, Oher has spoken out against how The Blind Side has affected his life, saying that the movie’s depiction of him as “unintelligent” took away from everything he accomplished in his own right. “People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie,” Oher told ESPN in 2015. “They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am.”
Romper’s request for comment from the Tuohys was not immediately returned.