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Tuohy family responds to Michael Oher's allegations of his false adoption

Members of the Tuohy family are speaking out after former NFL player Michael Oher alleged that they earned millions from pushing a false narrative that they adopted him. Here, Oher poses for a photograph with the Tuohy family at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City.
Jeff Zelevansky
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Getty Images
Members of the Tuohy family are speaking out after former NFL player Michael Oher alleged that they earned millions from pushing a false narrative that they adopted him. Here, Oher poses for a photograph with the Tuohy family at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City.

Michael Oher — the subject of the hit 2009 movie The Blind Side — has come forward with allegations that the wealthy Tuohy family established a conservatorship in which they profited from his name, image and likeness. And now, members of the Tuohy family are now speaking out.

The 37-year-old former NFL offensive lineman filed a petition Monday asking the Shelby County, Tenn., probate court for the established conservatorship to be dissolved.

In court documents, Oher argued that the Tuohys convinced him to sign documents that agreed to the conservatorship in 2004.

The 2004 conservatorship filing claims that Oher wanted the Tuohys to be his legal guardians up until he became 25 years old — or until the conservatorship was dissolved by a court beforehand.

Oher's petition filed Monday stated, "This Conservatorship is unnecessary as Michael Oher is capable of handling his own affairs."

Sean Tuohy, the Tuohy family patriarch, told The Daily Memphian that none of Oher's allegations are true.

"We didn't make any money off the movie," Tuohy said.

The 63-year-old sports commentator told The Daily Memphian he first heard the news of the lawsuit after a friend sent him the article from ESPN, who first reported the story.

Tuohy told the local Memphis newspaper that Michael Lewis, the author of the book that The Blind Side film is based on, gave his family half of the share of profits from the book — saying that everybody in the Tuohy family got an equal share, including Michael, of about $14,000 each.

"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," Tuohy said.

The conservatorship at the center of the petition filed Monday, Tuohy said, had nothing to do with the movie, telling The Daily Memphian it was a way to satisfy the NCAA when it appeared Oher might play football at the University of Mississippi.

"Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn't like that," Tuohy said. "They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family.

Tuohy said he 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."

Tuohy said if Oher wants to end the conservatorship now, he would "of course" be willing to end it. He also told The Daily Memphian that he began to sense a growing distance between Oher and the Tuohys starting a year and a half ago.

"We're devastated. It's upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children," Tuohy said. "But we're going to love Michael at 37 just like we loved him at 16."

Oher says he has no legal or familial relation to the Tuohys

Here, Oher was selected as the No. 26th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the NFL football draft at Radio City Music Hall Saturday, April 25, 2009, in New York.
Jason DeCrow / ASSOCIATED PRESS
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ASSOCIATED PRESS
Here, Oher was selected as the No. 26th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the NFL football draft at Radio City Music Hall Saturday, April 25, 2009, in New York.

While The Blind Side went on to make over $300 million at the global box office, Oher alleged he received nothing from the film while the Tuohys made millions, according to the petition.

Additionally, in February of this year, Oher said he discovered that, legally, he was not actually part of the Tuohy family.

In the film, it was portrayed that Oher was adopted by the Tuohys, after he began sporadically staying with the family the summer after his junior year of high school. According to the petition, the Tuohys invited Oher to live with them that July — and was later presented with the conservatorship.

"What he signed, however, and unknown to Michael until after February of 2023, were not adoption papers, or the equivalent of adoption papers," the petition alleged.

NPR's multiple requests for comment from both Leigh Anne Tuohy and the Tuohy family's nonprofit organization, Making It Happen, were not immediately returned.

Michael Oher and his attorney also did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment.

In a statement released to local TV station ABC 24 Memphis, Oher said he was "disheartened" by the revelation shared in the petition filed Monday.

"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," Oher said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.