Sean Tuohy is refuting allegations that he and Leigh Anne Tuohy tricked “Blind Side” subject Michael Oher into a conservatorship.
Sean spoke to Daily Memphian on Monday (Aug. 14) — the same day Oher filed a lawsuit against the couple in a Tennessee probate court.
“We’re devastated,” Tuohy reportedly told DM. “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.”
In his filing, Michael, 37, claims Sean and Leigh Anne had him sign documents naming them his conservators in 2004 when he was 18. Oher says he thought the paperwork was akin to being legally adopted.
Instead, this past February (2023), Oher says he discovered the Tuohys had allegedly used the conservatorship to fatten their and their children’s pockets.
“The lie of Michael’s adoption is one upon which Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward, the undersigned Michael Oher,” the filing states, per ESPN. “Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the Conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family, in fact, provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohys.”
In his 2011 memoir “I Beat the Odds,” Michael Oher claimed the Tuohys told him a conservatorship and adoption were interchangeable, per ESPN.
“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 wrote.
In 2016, after retiring from the National Football League (NFL), Michael Oher began to dig deeper into his “adoption.” By early this year, his lawyer had uncovered the conservatorship and details about “The Blind Side” movie deal.
“Mike didn’t grow up with a stable family life,” his lawyer, J. Gerard Stranch IV, said, per ESPN. “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.”
On Monday, Sean Tuohy explained to the Daily Memphian that the conservatorship was about Michael playing football at the University of Mississippi. Sean claims attorneys had told him and Leigh Anne that Tennessee law didn’t allow adult adoption. However, no current state law reportedly prevents adoptions for those over 18.
“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. 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.”
Tuohy added that they invited Michael’s biological mother to court to ensure everything was “on the up-and-up.”
Oher’s 14-page petition alleges the Tuohys and their two biological children made $225,000 each from the movie, per ESPN. In addition, the filing claims they each got 2.5 percent of “defined net proceeds” from “The Blind Side,” which made over $309 million in the worldwide box office. Meanwhile, Michael says he wasn’t paid for film.
But Sean Tuohy told DM the entire family, including Michael Oher, profited from half of Michael Lewis’ share in the movie. Lewis is the author of The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, a 2006 book about American football that features Oher’s story. In the end, Sean says each family member got an equal share of $14,000.
Additionally, Sean referenced the reported multi-million dollar sales of his fast-food franchises, adding that the “last thing [he] needed was 40 grand from a movie.”
“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.
Michael Oher also says he doesn’t recall discussing or signing a separate 2007 contract that gave the rights to his life story to 20th Century Fox Studio.
During this period, Debra Branan worked as the former NFL player’s agent–receiving his movie contracts and payments–but years before, she also reportedly filed the conservatorship petition. Branan is a “close family friend of the Tuohys,” per ESPN.
Meanwhile, Sean’s son Sean Tuohy Jr.–also depicted in the film–denied he made “two million dollars.” He also added that he “completely understands” but that it “stinks that it’ll play out on a very public stage.”
Sean Tuohy told DM that he sensed Michael was becoming distant about “a year and a half ago.” However, he offered no reason why. But Michael’s lawyer says the former NFLer’s distrust started shortly after “The Blind Side” hit big.
“Mike’s relationship with the Tuohy family started to decline when he discovered that he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent,” J. Gerard Stranch IV said. “Their relationship continued to deteriorate as he learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks from the movie, and it was permanently fractured when he realized he wasn’t adopted and a part of the family.”
In his newly released book, “When Your Back’s Against the Wall,” Michael Oher says the film is a source of gratitude and some of his “deepest hurt and pain.” He’s previously expressed grievances with the film portraying him with cognitive and leadership challenges.
His legal filing also adds that Michael had “no known physical or psychological disabilities” when he “signed where [the Tuohys] told him to sign.”
“Beyond the details of the deal, the politics, and the money behind the book and movie, it was the principle of the choices some people made that cut me the deepest,” Michael reportedly wrote in his new book.
According to ESPN, Michael is requesting that the court end the conservatorship and ban the Tuohys from using his name and likeness. He’s also seeking a complete accounting analysis of any money the Tuohy family made using his story.
Afterward, he’d like to obtain his fair share of the profits collected, plus compensatory and punitive damages.
Sean Tuohy tells DM he and Leigh Anne are willing to end the conservatorship.
“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.”