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Former NFL ‘Blind Side’ star sues over ‘adoption’

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Former NFL star Michael Oher, whose inspirational life story became the subject of the Oscar-winning 2009 movie “The Blind Side”, is suing the Tennessee couple who took him in as a teenager.

Oher, 37, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens during eight seasons in the NFL, alleged in a legal petition filed on Monday that Leigh Anne Tuohy and her husband Sean Tuohy tricked him into signing away control of his financial affairs.

Oher alleges in the filing that instead of being legally adopted by the Tuohys, as he was told, the Tuohys instead established a conservatorship which allowed them to profit from his name.

The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the conservatorship, adds that the Tuohys used their control of Oher’s affairs to rake in millions of dollars from the success of “The Blind Side”.

The film earned more than $300 million at the box office and earned a best actress Oscar for Sandra Bullock, who played Leigh Anne Tuohy.

The movie, based on the journalist Michael Lewis’s 2006 book of the same name, charts the story of how Oher, who spent much of his youth in foster homes, is taken in by the Tuohys before going on to forge a successful NFL career.

However Oher’s lawsuit says the premise of the film — his adoption by the Tuohys — is false.

“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 says.

“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.

“Since at least August of 2004, Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control,” the petition adds.

‘It’s upsetting’

The filing seeks to dissolve the Tuohys’ conservatorship and to bar them from using his name and likeness.

Oher is also seeking to receive a share of profits he claims not to have been paid in addition to financial and compensatory damages.

Speaking in response to the lawsuit, Sean Tuohy said his family was “devastated” by the claims.

“It’s upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children,” Tuohy told the Daily Memphian newspaper in Tennessee.

“But we’re going to love Michael at 37 just like we loved him at 16.”

Tuohy however admitted the conservatorship over Oher’s affairs, but said the agreement was only made in good faith after legal advice. Oher’s biological mother had attended the court hearing to formalise the conservatorship, he added.

“We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18; the only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship,” Tuohy said. “We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court.”

Tuohy also maintained that the family had made little money from the success of the movie about Oher’s life.

“We didn’t make any money off the movie,” Tuohy said. “Well, (author) Michael Lewis gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000 each.”

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