MEMPHIS, Tenn — The Memphis family calls claims by retired NFL star and “Blind Side” subject Michael Oher that their adoption of him was a lie and the family used him for profit, a "shakedown."
In a statement by the family’s attorney released Tuesday, a day after news of Oher’s petition filed in Shelby County became public, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy called the claims “outlandish” and said they defy belief. The full statement, which is several paragraphs long, said the idea that they ever tried to profit off Oher “is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous.”
A petition filed in the Shelby County Probate Court alleges Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy never adopted Oher and tricked him into signing a document that made him his conservators, giving them legal authority over his business dealings.
Oher had said in his 2011 memoir ‘I Beat the Odds’ that the Tuohys told him adoption and conservatorship were “pretty much the exact same thing,” with the law just taking his age not account.
The petition said Oher learned that he was not adopted in February 2023, when he learned the conservatorship did not actually make him a legal family member, which he had believed.
The petition claims the Tuohys struck a deal that paid them and their birth children millions of dollars from royalties from the Academy Award-winning film. Oher claims he got nothing from the movie deal.
Wednesday, attorneys refuted the claims, saying Oher was paid his share of the proceeds, and always controlled his own finances, from negotiating his own NFL contracts to hiring and firing his own agents.
In a statement released after news of the petition on Tuesday, Oher said, "I am disheartened by the revelation shared in the lawsuit today. This is a difficult situation for my family and me. I want to ask everyone to please respect our privacy at this time. For now, I will let the lawsuit speak for itself and will offer no further comment."
The full statement sent to ABC News was released by Martin Singer, attorney for Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy. It reads:
“Anyone with a modicum of common sense can see that the outlandish claims made by Michael Oher about the Tuohy family are hurtful and absurd. The idea that the Tuohys have ever sought to profit off Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous. Through hard work and good fortune, Sean and Leigh Anne have made an extraordinary amount of money in the restaurant business. 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.
In reality, the Tuohys opened their home to Mr. Oher, offered him structure, support and, most of all, unconditional love. They have consistently treated him like a son and one of their three children. His response was to threaten them, including saying that he would plant a negative story about them in the press unless they paid him $15 million.
When Michael Lewis, a friend of Sean’s since childhood, was approached about turning his book on Mr. Oher and the Tuohys into a movie about their family, his agents negotiated a deal where they received a small advance from the production company and a tiny percentage of net profits. They insisted that any money received be divided equally. And they have made good on that pledge.
The evidence – documented in profit participation checks and studio accounting statements – is clear: 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.
Additionally, in spite of the false allegation in the lawsuit, the Tuohys have always been upfront about how a conservatorship (from which not one penny was received) was established to assist with Mr. Oher’s needs, ranging from getting him health insurance and obtaining a driver’s license to helping with college admissions. Should Mr. Oher wish to terminate the conservatorship, either now or at anytime in the future, the Tuohys will never oppose it in any way.
Unbeknownst to the public, Mr. Oher has actually attempted to run this play several times before – but it seems that numerous other lawyers stopped representing him once they saw the evidence and learned the truth. Sadly, Mr. Oher has finally found a willing enabler and filed this ludicrous lawsuit as a cynical attempt to drum up attention in the middle of his latest book tour.
The Tuohys will always care deeply for Mr. Oher. They are heartbroken over these events. They desperately hope that he comes to regret his recent decisions, makes different choices in the future and that they someday can be reconciled with him. In the meantime, however, they will not hesitate to defend their good names, stand up to this shakedown and defeat this offensive lawsuit.”