The feel-good story of Michael Oher — the NFL player at the center of the 2009 biopic "The Blind Side" — may not have been totally truthful. On Aug. 14, the former Baltimore Ravens player filed a lawsuit in which he claims he was never actually adopted by Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy, as the 2009 film suggests. Instead, he alleges that he was forced into a conservatorship that the Tuohys profited off of — and he wants out! He's also asserting that the family made millions off his rags-to-riches story while he made nothing.
The stunning lawsuit has prompted a lot questions, opinions and even more accusations — including that there was an alleged eight-figure extortion scheme that took place.
Click through to learn more details regarding Michael's claims, the Tuohy family's reaction and how the film and its stars have been impacted by this news …
Michael Oher, 37, alleges that the Tuohy family placed him under a conservatorship under the guise of legally adopting him. Now, Michael wants out of the conservatorship that he's been under since 2004. "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," the legal filing reads, according to ESPN. He argues that they "exploited" him "for their own benefit" after realizing he was a "gullible young man" with athletic talent. The lawsuit alleges that the Tuohy family wanted "total control over Michael Oher's ability to negotiate for or enter any contract."
The Tuohy family called the allegations in Michael Oher's lawsuit "hurtful," "absurd" and "outlandish." In a chat with the Daily Memphian, Sean Tuohy claimed that they had to go the conservatorship route because of his status as an NCAA "booster."
"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. We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court," Sean insisted.
He also denied allegations that he and his family profited massively from the film. "We didn't make any money off the movie," Sean said. "Well, Michael Lewis ['The Blind Side' book author] gave us half of his share. Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each."
The family has said they'll gladly let Michael out of the conservatorship if that's what the former football star really wants.
The relationship between Michael Oher and the Tuohy family seemed to be broken before the lawsuit came to light. Via a statement from their attorney, the Tuohys said the offensive lineman actually attempted to extort them out of $15 million. The family alleges that Michael threatened to "plant a negative story about them in the press" if they didn't cough up an eight-figure check. "Unbeknownst to the public, Mr. Oher has actually attempted to run this play several times before," the letter said, according to TMZ. The family also denied that they negotiated the deal for "The Blind Side" behind Michae's back. "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," the statement said. "Over the years, the Tuohys have given Mr. Oher an equal cut of every penny received from 'The Blind Side.' Even recently, when Mr. Oher started to threaten them about what he would do unless they paid him an eight-figure windfall, and, as part of that shakedown effort refused to cash the small profit checks from the Tuohys, they still deposited Mr. Oher's equal share into a trust account they set up for his son."
Although he claimed he didn't necessarily realize he was in a conservatorship until this year, Michael Oher was singing a different tune in 2011. In his book, "I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness, to The Blind Side, and Beyond," Michael called Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy his "legal conservators."
"It kind of felt like a formality, as I'd been a part of the family for more than a year at that point. Since I was already over the age of eighteen and considered an adult by the state of Tennessee, Sean and Leigh Anne would be named as my 'legal conservators,'" he wrote. "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. Honestly, I didn't care what it was called. I was just happy that no one could argue that we weren't legally what we already knew was real: We were a family." Michael's words in the book could come back to haunt him.
The movie "The Blind Side" — which is based on Michael Lewis's book — was a huge success: It scored an Oscar nomination for best picture and earned more than $300 million in the theaters. Sandra Bullock also won an Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy. Amid Michael Oher's lawsuit, some Twitter trolls said Sandra no longer deserves the Oscar because of the drama going on behind the scenes. Of course, there's no evidence that the actress was aware of the NFL player's claims. "So Sandra Bullock should have to give back her Oscar right, and man do we need to start checking these good feeling stories," one person argued on social media. Others said similar things.
A source close to the actress said she's "heartbroken" over the news. "She hates that such a wonderful story, a spectacular movie, and a spectacular time in her life now has been tainted," the source told DailyMail.com. "Now people won't watch it and if they do, they will have a completely different reaction to its original intention. There was so much hard work put into the film that they all thought was the truth and now that has been questioned, it just upsets Sandra to no end that a time in her life that was so special, is now shadowed with a completely different perspective."
Quinton Aaron, the actor who played Michael Oher in "The Blind Side," doesn't known "what to make of what's going on." One thing he's sure of: The drama should not tarnish the movie or Sandra Bullock's Oscar-winning performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy in the film. "To make a statement like that doesn't make any sense," Quinton told TMZ. "Sandra Bullock didn't have anything to do with the real story that we're reading as of right now." He added, "She gave a brilliant performance and that shouldn't be tarnished for something that had nothing to do with her."