The family that inspired "The Blind Side" never actually adopted the retired NFL player and allegedly haven't shared a dime from the film based on his story.
"The Blindside" was a movie that brought football lovers and drama lovers to tears with all the touching moments, triumphs and unconditional love. When the movie came out in 2009, Michael Oher, 37, the person who made the story possible had just been drafted to the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens. That helped curious fans tie the movie up with a nice little bow, seeing Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy by his side through it all.
But after the movie came out, there was a little rumble brewing about how Oher was portrayed. In 2013 while preparing for the Super Bowl in New Orleans, the offensive tackle said he was tired of talking about the movie.
“Football is what got me here and the movie, it wasn’t me. I always knew how to play football growing up. It was different personalities, stuff like that. Playing football is what got me to this point,” Oher says according to the LA Times .
At that point, Oher was still close with the Tuohy family and they were expected to be at the Super Bowl to support him. It wasn't until February 2023 that the retired NFL player found out that his adoption into the Tuohy family never actually happened. Instead of adopting the then-high school senior, in 2004, the Tuohy's had Oher sign conservatorship paperwork giving them full control over any business dealings for the football star.
"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," Oher revealed in his best selling book, "I Beat the Odds."
Michael Oher fights to end conservatorship after finding out he wasn't adopted
Recently, Oher filed a petition in Shelby County, Tennessee claiming that Sean and Leigh Ann Tuohy deceived him into signing a conservatorship under his belief it was adoption papers. The filings, which are 14 pages , also allege that Oher never made any money off of the Oscar winning move about his own life. Instead, he claims the Tuohy's, including their two biological children, Collins and Sean Jr. (SJ), did and continue to receive royalties.
The retired offensive tackle is seeking to not only end his secret conservatorship but to end the use of his name and likeness by the Tuohy's, as well as an accurate accounting of the funds made off of his name. Oher is requesting to be paid his share of what was earned and damages.
In the filings, Oher's lawyer makes clear the emotional toll this situation has had on his client, explaining, "Mike didn't grow up with a stable family life," Stranch said. "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."
The once couch surfing, impoverished teen turned NFL player signed what he thought was his adoption papers just a few months after turning 18. As shocking as this revelation is, it seems more shocking that he was somehow cut out of the profits of a movie that made over $300 million dollars about his life. In fact, looking back on the entire buzz around the movie, very little of it had to do with him, though it's his life story. The Tuohy's, and what a good deed they did, was the focus, when it should've been on him.
The amount of devastation Oher must've felt and likely continues to feel after discovering the people he's called Mom and Dad since he was a teen aren't legally his parents is unfathomable.
“Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn’t like that. They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family." Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian . "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."
Though there's no mention of why the Tuohy's didn't inform Oher of the legality of the conservatorship or end it after he graduated Ole Miss. The Daily Memphian mentions that Tennessee does currently allow for adult adoptions.
Its not clear if Oher will ever be able to forgive the people he called his parents or how this new information impacts the relationship he had with the Tuohy's two biological children. Though his lawyer wrote that Oher's relationship with the Tuohy's is permanently fractured after finding out he's not adopted and legally part of their family.
This will be a hard situation to overcome for Oher, and possibly the biological children of the Tuohy's since Collins was barely 18 herself and SJ was only 11, when Oher was "adopted." The three often talked about
how close their bond was
, so the fall out of these allegations will likely have an unfortunate impact their relationship as well.
In the end, let's hope the former NFL player is able to regain the use of his name, likeness and ability to make his own business deals, while wishing him all the healing needed to get through this situation.