Michael Oher, the subject of the 2009 film The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy and Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher, has come forward with allegations that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mom and dad of the rich white family that took him in, misled him into believing he had been legally adopted. Michael says the Tuohys didn’t adopt him at all, and that they actually established a conservatorship that helped them profit off of his name, image and likeness. 


On Monday, he filed a petition asking for the conservatorship to be dissolved. According to court documents, he was convinced to sign a series of papers nearly 20 years ago in 2004. The papers outline that the Tuohys would be his guardians until he turned 25, or until the conservatorship was dissolved by a court. 

It was only this February that Michael discovered that the documents he signed weren’t legal adoption papers at all and were instead conservatorship documents. Essentially, much of the longstanding relationship he had with the family, believing he was a legal part of it, was under false pretenses. 

"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.

The film, based on a book by the same name and written by Michael Lewis, chronicled Michael’s childhood and homelessness, before he ultimately became a successful college football star which led him to the NFL. The film grossed over $300 million and was an instant box office hit - but Michael says he didn’t get anything from the movie. 


At the time, the Tuohys negotiated a deal with 20th Century Fox that essentially handed over the rights to his name, likeness and life story. But the deal didn’t include any payment to Michael, despite the Tuohy family receiving a contract price of 2.5% of the film’s net proceeds and a $200,000 donation to Leigh Anne Tuohy’s charitable foundation.

In response to the allegations, the Tuohys have chalked up the reasoning for the conservatorship to be due to Michael’s age at the time. At 18, he was no longer considered a minor and they say because of that, the adoption papers were entitled a conservatorship. Attorney Lisa MacCarley, who appeared on CNN to discuss the issue, says that’s pretty accurate. But Lisa goes on to say that the Tuohys didn’t have any rights to act on his behalf. 

“According to the file, once the Tuohys got the court order, they never pursued letters of guardianship or conservatorship. They never took the oath,” she says in this clip. “Which means they never actually had legal authority to act on Mr. Oher’s behalf and that would be consistent with his own statement.”

The Tuohys also allege that Michael’s attempts to turn this into a public spectacle is part of a $15 million ‘shakedown’, saying it’s not the first time he’s done this, and that just before he filed papers with the court, he asked the family for millions of dollars. 


The Tuohys released a statement through their attorney, Martin Singer. In the statement, obtained by TMZ, it refers to Michael’s claims as “outlandish and absurd”. But outlandish and absurd are words we could also use to describe some of the inconsistencies in the family’s reasoning.

“The idea that the Tuohys have ever sought to profit off of Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous…The notion that a couple worth hundreds of millions of dollars would connive to withhold a few thousand dollars in profit participation payments from anyone – let alone from someone they loved as a son – defies belief.” 

But according to that same exact statement, that’s exactly what they did. Just two paragraphs under that claim, Singer says that the family “divided equally” the money that they received from a “small advance” from the production company. According to other articles circulating, it was about $14,000 each. What happened to a couple being worth a couple hundred million not withholding a few thousand dollars in profit from someone who they loved as a son? It was his story, not theirs. Why did they think they were each entitled to $14,000 anyway?

The misgivings about the family are not new. When the movie was first released, it embodied the definition of the white savior complex. And despite rumblings of a sense of unease about the nature of the story, people still bought it hook, line and sinker. Why? The short answer is: Hollywood. 


Writer/director John Lee Hancock knew exactly what to do to sell that story and make it the blockbuster it was. That included everything from casting the perfect actors to playing up certain parts of Michael’s story, and making up parts of his story, too. Like his supposedly lack of intelligence, for example, which Michael took issue with. In his 2011 book entitled, “When Your Back’s Against The Wall,” Michael wrote:

“I felt like it portrayed me as dumb instead of as a kid who had never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it…I could not figure out why the director chose to show me as someone who had to be taught the game of football. Whether it was S.J. moving around ketchup bottles or Leigh Anne explaining to me what blocking is about, I watched those scenes thinking, 'No, that's not me at all! I've been studying — really studying — the game since I was a kid!'”

The same manipulation of the story that was employed to help sell the film also worked to protect the Tuohys from criticism. It’s the same concept that helped the Duggar family get away with their atrocities for so long, which I wrote about here. Both the Duggars and the Tuohys look the part of shiny, happy, people. In both cases, most people didn’t know the true story. With the Duggars, they knew the TLC show and with the Tuohys, they knew the movie. And that meant that the nuances, the implications and the consequences that came with what they were actually doing were not as easy to detect. 

Recently, someone on Twitter shared the time Leigh Anne recalled seeing two young Black men in her restaurant and approached them to find out what they were up to after someone else suggested they were up to no good. In a pretty clear case of racial profiling, she went over to them and demanded they let her know what they were up to, then shared a post about the interaction, highlighting the fact that she sent them off with some change and some popcorn so they could attend a high school basketball game. Years later, the men in the photo shared their side of the story and said her version couldn’t have been further from the truth. 


Michael’s never shied away from expressing gratitude to the Tuohys, but he has wanted to set the record straight about just how much of his success had to do with them, how much of his success had to do with the countless others that helped him throughout his journey, and how much of it had to do with his own strength, determination and grit. 

He was one of the top prospects in the 2008 NFL Draft and he was drafted by the Ravens, signing a $13.8 million contract in 2009. When that contract expired, he signed a four-year, $20 million contract to join the Tennessee Titans. He signed two more contracts after that, valued at nearly $30 million. And it’s estimated that throughout the course of his career, he made more than $34 million. 

Though money has taken the centre stage in this debacle, and understandably so, it’s important to also remember that this is a man with what I can only imagine are deep childhood abandonment wounds. So this goes way beyond the money. Finding out that you’ve been misled for nearly 20 years by the very people who stepped into your life under the guise that they loved and cared for you, only to find out that you’ve been deceived must cut deep. And must feel like a real blind side.