“It’s upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children,” Sean Tuohy, the alleged adoptive father of Oher whose story was depicted in “The Blind Side”
Sean Tuohy has spoken out about former NFL player Michael Oher’s legal petition, which alleges that the Tuohy family did not legally adopt him but tricked him into making them his conservators before making millions from his falsified life story, which was depicted in The Blind Side.
“We’re devastated,” Tuohy told the Daily Memphian. “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.”
Michael Oher, the former NFL player whose story was depicted in the 2009 Academy Award-winning movie The Blind Side, filed a petition Monday seeking to dissolve the conservatorship alleging Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy did not legally adopt him.
According to the petition, filed on August 14 at Shelby County Probate Court and obtained by PEOPLE, Oher alleges he unknowingly authorized the couple to be his conservators in 2004 when he was 18 years old.
“Michael trusted the Tuohys and signed where they told him to sign,” the legal filing, obtained by PEOPLE on Monday, claims. “What he signed, however, and unknown to Michael until after February 2023, were not adoption papers, or the equivalent of adoption papers.”
Related: Michael Oher, Who Inspired ‘The Blind Side,’ Alleges Family Made Millions While Lying About Adopting Him
Grossing more than $300 million at the box office, the sports drama film starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw as Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy was based on a book written by Michael Lewis and released in 2006 titled The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.
During an appearance at the New Orleans Book Festival in March, Lewis said he was a high school classmate of Sean Tuohy.
Oher alleges that each of the four Tuohy family members — Sean, Leigh Anne and their two children — made $250,000 outright from the movie, according to the petition, in addition to 2.5% in residuals.
Sean Tuohy disputed that. “We were never offered money; we never asked for money. My money is well-documented; you can look up how much I sold my company for,” said the 63-year-old, who has worked as a sports commentator while also owning a string of fast-food franchises.
“The last thing I needed was 40 grand from a movie,” Tuohy added. “I will say it’s upsetting that people would think I would want to make money off any of my children.”
Tuohy insisted the conservatorship that prompted the filing of Monday’s petition was unrelated to the movie. Rather, it was a way to appease the NCAA, the nonprofit organization that regulates student athletics, when it appeared Oher was likely to play football at the University of Mississippi.
Tuohy was an All-American point guard at the Southern university known as “Ole Miss” and an active supporter of the school. As such, he would qualify as a “booster” under NCAA rules.
“Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn’t like that,” Tuohy told the Daily Memphian. “They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family. I sat Michael down and told him, ‘If you’re planning to go to Ole Miss — or even considering Ole Miss — we think you have to be part of the family. This would do that, legally.’ 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. We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court.”
Tuohy said that while he and his family had remained close with Oher following the film’s release in 2009, he began to notice some distance “maybe a year and a half ago.”
“It’s upsetting, but it’s life, what are you going to do? Certain people will believe us and certain people won’t,” Tuohy said. “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.”
“It’s hard because you have to defend yourself, but whatever he wants, we’ll do. 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,” he continued.
When asked whether the Tuohys would be willing to end their conservatorship of 37-year-old Oher, Tuohy responded, “I want whatever Michael wants.”
Oher’s attorney J. Gerard Stranch IV told ESPN that the Super Bowl champion recently learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks, and hired Stranch to begin looking into the situation. That led the attorney to uncover the conservatorship papers earlier this year that showed Oher was allegedly never officially adopted by the Tuohy family.
“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 ESPN. “Discovering that he wasn’t actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply.”
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