Former NFL player Michael Oher, whose life story was portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie “The Blind Side,” has filed a petition in a Tennessee court to end Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy’s conservatorship over him.
Oher claims the Tuohys told him they were going to adopt him, but instead filed a conservatorship that kept millions of dollars from him.
A lawyer for Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, Steve Farese, said they have no comment but will be issuing a statement Tuesday.
Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian that his family was devastated.
“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 said, according to a Daily Memphian story published Monday.
Oher’s petition to the court is asking for an order for the Tuohys “to show cause for failure to meet their required duties to provide regular accountings or to act in the best interest of their ward, Michael J. Oher.”
Oher became a ward of the state of Tennessee just before he turned 11 in 1996, and soon after began living on the streets.
A friend’s father helped get him into a school where he started playing football. He had to take buses and walk over an hour to school, according to the petition.
During the summer after his junior year, Oher started staying with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy occasionally.
“Where other parents of Michael’s classmates saw Michael simply as a nice kid in need, Conservators Sean Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy saw something else: a gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit,” the petition says.
The Tuohys, “who took no legal action in Juvenile Court to assume legal custody of Michael” invited Oher to stay at their house more often and took him on shopping trips.
After Oher turned 18 but was still a student, in July 2004, the Tuohys offered for Michael to come live with them, the petition states. “The Tuohys did tell Michael they loved him and that they intended to legally adopt him. Michael believed them, was delighted to be part of a real family, and trusted Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy completely,” and called them “Mom” and “Dad” at their request, the petition states.
The petition says soon after he moved in, the Tuohys gave him legal papers he thought were necessary for the adoption.
“Michael trusted the Tuohys and signed where they told him to sign. What he signed, however, and unknown to Michael until after February 2023, were not adoption papers, or the equivalent of adoption papers,” the petition states. Instead, the papers appointed Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy his conservators. The conservatorship papers were filed by an attorney so close to the Tuohys that Oher was told to call her “aunt,” the petition states.
The papers requested that the conservators “have total control over Michael Oher’s ability to negotiate for or enter any contract, despite the fact he was over 18 years of age and had no diagnosed physical or psychological disabilities,” the petition states.
The petition says at no point did the Tuohys tell him they would have “ultimate control of all of his contracts” and Oher “was falsely advised by the Tuohys” that the “adoption” would have to be called a conservatorship since he was over 18, but was “for all intents and purposes, an adoption.”
The petition says “The Tuohys have falsely and publicly represented themselves as the adoptive parents of Michael, continuing to the date of the filing of this petition.”
Around September 2006, the Tuohys negotiated contracts for the movie “The Blind Side” based on the book based on Oher’s life story for themselves and their two other children through Creative Artists Agency to each to receive “$225,000 plus 2.5% of all future ‘Defined Net Proceeds’” contingent on Oher signing. The movie grossed more than $330 million, according to the petition.
Oher’s agent for the contract was listed as the attorney who filed his conservatorship.
Another contract from April 2007 exists that was “purportedly signed by Michael Oher” in which Oher gives away his name, likeness, voice, etc. to the movie studio “without any payment whatsoever,” the petition states.
Oher thinks the signature on the contract looks similar to his, but he is not sure if it was forged because he said “at no time ever willingly or knowingly” did he sign a document that explained he would be giving away rights to his name, image, etc.
The petition says “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. All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.”
The petition is asking the Tuohys to provide a sworn accounting of the money belonging to Oher that should have been paid to him.
The story was first reported by ESPN.
CNN has also reached out to Michael Oher and his attorney but has not yet heard back.
In a statement released to WATN-TV, Oher said, “I am disheartened by the revelation shared in the lawsuit today. This is a difficult situation for my family and me. I want to ask everyone to please respect our privacy at this time. For now, I will let the lawsuit speak for itself and will offer no further comment.”
Parts of Oher’s life story was captured in the 2006 book “The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game” by Michael Lewis and the adapted movie of the same name in 2009.
Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian that “we didn’t make any money off the movie.”
“Well, Michael Lewis gave us half his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000 each,” Tuohy said, according to the Daily Memphian.
CNN reached out to representatives for Lewis for comment but has not heard back.
“It’s hard because you have to defend yourself, but whatever he wants, we’ll do,” Sean Tuohy said, according to the Daily Memphian. “We’re not in this for anything other than whatever he wants. If he’d have said, ‘I don’t want to be part of the family anymore,’ we’d have been very upset, but we absolutely would have done it.
“No question, the allegations are insulting, but, look, it’s a crazy world. You’ve got to live in it. It’s obviously upset everybody.”
As reported in the book, Oher was born into poverty in Memphis and, with his mother struggling with addiction, bounced around homes and schools for much of his childhood. He had a rare combination of size and athleticism and became a star offensive lineman for the football team at the private school Briarcrest, eventually earning a scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi, the Tuohys’ alma mater.
Oher started 47 consecutive games at Ole Miss and was named a consensus All-American in 2008.
The Baltimore Ravens selected Oher with the 23rd pick of the 1st round of the 2009 NFL Draft and the 6-foot-5, 309-pound lineman made an immediate impact, as he was named the runner-up in AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting.
He played both left and right tackle in Baltimore for five seasons, helping them win a Super Bowl in 2013. Over his NFL career, he started 110 games over eight seasons with Baltimore, the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers.
Oher earned over $34 million during his NFL career, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks sports contracts.
Sandra Bullock won best actress for her performance of Leigh Anne Tuohy in the 2010 82nd annual Academy Awards.
CNN’s Amy Simonson contributed to this report.