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Michael Oher of 'The Blind Side' says he wasn't adopted, but put in a conservatorship

Carolina Panthers' Michael Oher speaks to the media during their NFL football offseason conditioning program in Charlotte, N.C., on April 20, 2015. Oher, the former NFL tackle known for the movie "The Blind Side," filed a petition Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, accusing Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of lying to him by having him sign papers making them his conservators, not his adoptive parents, in 2004.
Chuck Burton
/
AP
Carolina Panthers' Michael Oher speaks to the media during their NFL football offseason conditioning program in Charlotte, N.C., on April 20, 2015. Oher, the former NFL tackle known for the movie "The Blind Side," filed a petition Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, accusing Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of lying to him by having him sign papers making them his conservators, not his adoptive parents, in 2004.

Michael Oher, the subject of the hit 2009 movie The Blind Side, has alleged that a central part of his story — that he was adopted by a wealthy family — is false. Instead of adopting him, he said, the Tuohy family established a conservatorship, in which they profited from his name, image and likeness.

Oher, 37, filed a petition Monday in the Shelby County, Tenn., probate court asking for the conservatorship to be dissolved.

A conservatorship is a legal appointment allowing a party to handle the financial and personal affairs of another.

Oher is also requesting that the Tuohys account for his assets, as required by the conservatorship; pay him any money he was owed over the years, with interest; pay his attorney fees and punitive damages; and be sanctioned for violating the terms of the conservatorship.

Oher met the Tuohy family while in high school

Oher, spent eight years as an offensive tackle in the NFL. But he began playing football at Briarcrest Christian School in the Memphis area in 2003.

During his senior year there, he played in the the Tennessee All-State Game for football and basketball, and the Army All-American Bowl game. He had multiple football scholarship offers, the petition said.

At the time, he was a ward of the state and often spent the night at the homes of his classmates.

The summer after his junior year, Oher began intermittently staying with Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and their two children, Sean Jr. and Collins. The Tuohys invited Oher to live with them in July of that summer, according to the petition.

Oher said Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy told him they loved him, and encouraged him to call them "mom" and "dad." They also said they would adopt him, he recounted.

"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 said.

Shortly after moving in, Oher, also known as Michael Williams, said the Tuohys presented him with the conservatorship because he was over 18 years of age. However, he was told that the document was "for all intents and purposes, an adoption," according to the petition.

The document said the Tuohys would have "the full co-legal custody, guardianship and conservatorship of the said Michael Jerome Williams, Jr..." and that Oher could not enter or negotiate contracts or make medical decisions by himself.

Oher said he found out in February of this year that he had no legal, familial relation to the Tuohys.

Oher says he never received money from The Blind Side's success

Journalist and author Michael Lewis wrote a book about Oher's life, called The Blind Side: Evolution of the Game, which was published in 2006. The Tuohys began negotiating a movie adaptation of the book with 20th Century Fox later that year, the petition said.

The Blind Side went on to make at least $300 million at the worldwide box office. The Tuohys made millions, while Oher received nothing, the petition alleged.

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

Oher also alleged his name was signed on a 2007 document that would give 20th Century Fox "without any payment whatsoever, the perpetual, unconditional and exclusive right throughout the world to use and portray Michael Oher's name, likeness, voice, appearance, personality, personal experiences, incidents, situations and events" tied to the book and movie that led up to the 2008 NFL draft, according to the petition.

He said he doesn't know if the document was forged or not, but that he never signed it.

Oher said in the petition if the Tuohys forged the document, they should give up all the money they made from the movie, including interest, and pay Oher punitive damages.

Oher additionally accused the Tuohys of violating the terms of the contract by failing to file annual accounts of Oher's assets, saying they should be sanctioned.

According to the 2004 filing for the conservatorship, Oher wanted the Tuohys to be his legal guardians at least until the age of 25 or until it was dissolved by a court before that point. But Oher's petition filed Monday said, "This Conservatorship is unnecessary as Michael Oher is capable of handling his own affairs."

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

Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]