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NFL star claims 'The Blind Side' film about his adoption is a lie

Michael Oher playing for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009
Michael Oher playing for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009 Copyright Keith Srakocic/AP2009
Copyright Keith Srakocic/AP2009
By Jonny Walfisz
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Michael Oher, whose life was depicted in 2009 film 'The Blind Side' as the heartwarming tale of his adoption by a wealthy white family to his future as an American Footballer, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the film was a lie.

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In The Blind Side, Michael Oher was taken out of foster care and adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy who then encouraged him to play American football, eventually leading him to become a successful athlete in the National Football League (NFL).

However, in a petition filed by Oher’s legal representation in Tennessee, he alleges that the Tuohys didn’t adopt him at all. Instead, after he turned 18 in 2004, they tricked him into a conservatorship agreement, giving them legal authority over his financial affairs.

He claims that they lied to him by saying that adopting someone over 18 was called conservatorship instead. With the conservatorship in place, Oher alleges that the Tuohys made a deal to earn millions of dollars for their birth children from the $300 million (€275 million) film, while he earned nothing. Leigh Anne Tuohy has also continued to tell Oher’s story as a motivational speaker.

The filing claims that Oher found out about the conservatorship in February this year.

Gerald Herbert/AP
Sean and Leigh Anne TuohyGerald Herbert/AP

The Tuohys have responded to the allegations to the Daily Memphian, saying they “didn’t make any money off the movie,” instead earning some money from a share of the profits from the Michael Lewis book that served as its inspiration.

“We're devastated,” Sean Tuohy said. “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.”

Oher’s petition asks for the end of the conservatorship, an injunction against the Tuohys using his name and likeness, and a full accounting of the money they’ve made in his name with damages paid.

The Blind Side, released in 2009, was a commercial success and lead actor Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress. It earned over €275 million. In the legal filing, Oher claims the Tuohys and their two birth children were each paid $225,000 (€205,000) and 2.5% of the film’s net proceeds.

The film was criticised at the time for its presentation of a white-saviour narrative and Oher has said he was unhappy with his depiction as unintelligent.

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