Fans of The Blind Side better buckle up. The IRL people whose lives were inspiration for the Oscar winning film about a wealthy, white family adopting a poverty-stricken Black teenager is now coming under fire for allegedly LYING about the whole thing!
On Monday, Michael Oher, the retired NFL star who inspired the 2009 film, filed an explosive petition in Shelby County, Tennessee probate court, alleging the main storyline of the movie was a lie the family created to enrich themselves! The 14-page court filing, obtained by ESPN, claimed Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Tim McGraw and Sandra Bullock, respectively) never actually adopted Michael. Instead, less than three months after the athlete turned 18 in 2004, he claims they tricked him into signing a document making them his conservators — giving them legal authority over all his finances!
The parents then allegedly used their power to strike shady business deals for their family and their two birth children, which allowed them to collect millions of dollars in royalties from the popular movie (which earned more than $300 million), all while the true star of the flick earned nothing! Damn!
They then continued to refer to the 37-year-old as their adopted son while promoting their foundation and via Leigh Anne’s work as an author and motivational speaker, all of which earned them more money. Shockingly, Michael says he didn’t realize the full extent of it all until February of THIS year! The legal filing stated:
“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. 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.”
Jeez. So, what’s the real story?
According to the petition, the offensive tackle did have a challenging upbringing as he was one of 12 children with a mother who struggled with drug addiction. Before his 11th birthday, he was placed into foster care, bouncing around between living in strange homes and living on the streets. Unlike how the movie portrayed him, though, he was actually a capable student (but he did have to repeat first and second grades after moving around schools so much which set him back academically).
Despite this, a friend’s father saw potential in him and introduced the teen to the principal at a private Christian school in Memphis, which he began attending in the 10th grade — where he met the Tuohys. He quickly shined as a sports prodigy and began playing football in 11th grade. As college scholarship offers started arriving, the Tuohys formed a closer bond with him thanks to their kids being at the same school. After spending most nights at their home and being treated to shopping sprees, Leigh Anne and Sean encouraged him to call them “mom” and “dad,” claiming they planned to adopt him.
Michael was thrilled at the time because he fully trusted the family, per his lawyer. When he was a rising high school senior, the parents had him sign conservatorship papers, he recalled in his 2011 book 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.”
Except that’s apparently not true?! If Michael had really been adopted, he would have retained the power to handle his financial affairs. Instead, he signed those rights away even though he had no known physical or psychological disability that might normally warrant a conservatorship. The petition goes on to claim the Tuohys began negotiating a movie deal shortly after the release of the 2006 book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Per the filing, the film paid Sean and Leigh Anne plus their two birth children each $225,000 and 2.5% of the film’s “defined net proceeds.” Considering it was up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Sandra won Best Actress, this was a very lucrative deal!!!
Sadly, Micheal WASN’T profiting off the film! Instead, he reportedly signed another contract in 2007 to “give away” the life rights to his story “without any payment whatsoever”to 20th Century Fox Studios.
The court docs claim he has no recollection of signing the papers, and even if he did, nobody told him the implications.
That’s messed up!
Worse? The deal lists the four Tuohy family members as having the same rep from Creative Artists Agency, but Michael’s agent — who received the movie contract and payment notices — was listed as Debra Branan, a close friend of the family’s and the same lawyer who filed the 2004 conservatorship petition. Damn.
In the past, the family has claimed they didn’t earn much from the sports drama, insisting they received a flat fee for the story and didn’t earn any royalties. They also wrote in their 2010 book, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving, that they “divided” the money “five ways.” None of this appears to be true, per the Baltimore Ravens player’s new lawsuit.
When he asked his family why he never earned any money from the movie despite suspicions others were profiting, he claims he never received a straight answer, per attorney J. Gerard Stranch IV. Since his career was taking off at the time in 2009, he put off a proper investigation until after he retired in 2016. That’s when he hired a lawyer who uncovered the horrifying details.
The lawyer shared:
“Mike’s relationship with the Tuohy family started to decline when he discovered that he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent. 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.”
Reiterating how devastating this has been for the athlete, his lawyer continued:
“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. Discovering that he wasn’t actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply.”
It’s so f**ked up! Also, the false narrative about his intelligence in the movie has actually hurt his football career! In 2015, he told ESPN:
“People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie. They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am.”
For their part, the Tuohys have agreed he had what it took to succeed without their help. Still, they allowed that narrative to make it to the screen! In his new book When Your Back’s Against the Wall, which was released just last week, the author seemed to hit at the family scandal, writing:
“There has been so much created from The Blind Side that I am grateful for, which is why you might find it as a shock that the experience surrounding the story has also been a large source of some of my deepest hurt and pain over the past 14 years. 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.”
He is now asking the court to end the conservatorship and to issue an injunction barring the Tuohys from using his name and likeness. He’s also seeking a full accounting of the money they earned using his name and requesting to have the couple pay him his fair share of the profits. Furthermore, he’d like an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. At this time, the Tuohy family has not commented on the legal filing. Wow. What a terribly sad and shocking situation! Reactions? Sound OFF (below)!
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