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Law

Why Michael Oher is Suing His ‘Blind Side’ Family

  • The country learned the story of Michael Oher through 'The Blind Side.'
  • Now Oher is taking legal action to change the narrative.
Michael Oher has penned his second book, "When Your Back's Against the Wall." Oher, a former NFL lineman, is hoping to inspire those who face tough odds it is possible to pick yourself up when life knock's you down to achieve your dreams.
The Tennessean

On the surface, it may seem perplexing that Michael Oher is going to all this trouble.

Earlier this week, the former NFL player took legal action against the family that famously took him in, hoping to end their conservatorship, prevent them from using his name and likeness, and claim funds from them to which he says he’s entitled. 

The filing cast a new light on Oher’s relationship with the Tuohy family, which played a key role in rescuing Oher from challenging circumstances and helping him get to the NFL — a story immortalized in the Oscar-winning 2009 movie “The Blind Side,” based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name. 

While it’s understandable that he would want the conservatorship removed, it could be done without an acrimonious legal fight, especially given that the legal relationship may have had little practical bearing on him.

“It appears that all his NFL contracts were negotiated by his agent at CAA,” Nick Soltman, partner at Kinsella Holley Iser Kump Steinsapir LLP said on Front Office Sports Today. “Barring some kind of background involvement by the conservator, it doesn’t appear that anyone has been acting as if he’s under a conservatorship for over a decade.”

Could this be primarily about the money? Perhaps, but it’s unclear how much Oher has to gain. His legal filing claims that the Tuohy family earned $225,000, plus 2.5% of “defined net proceeds” from the film. While the film earned around $300 million, the Tuohys’ share is likely to be small after factoring in payments to theaters and other stakeholders.

“When you start whittling it down,” said Soltman, “what you end up with is not a movie that is likely to be millions in profits for someone holding [Oher’s] points or the family’s points, but one that might not be in profits at all — or [if it is] you’re likely talking about tens of thousands of dollars, not millions.”

Sean Tuohy Jr., Sean and Leigh Anne’s son, said on a Barstool podcast that he had earned $60,000 to $70,000 over four or five years.

While that’s not an insignificant sum, it is dwarfed by Oher’s career earnings, which total $35 million, and by the Tuohys’ own fortune, which reaches into the hundreds of millions through a successful business in the fast food industry.

“Part of their defense that they’ve made as to why they weren’t bilking Michael Oher, is what do they stand to gain?”  said New York Times reporter Santul Nerkar. “They’ve already made a fantastic amount of money.” 

So if it’s not about money, what does Oher look to gain and the Tuohy family stand to lose?

“I think reputation is very clearly what’s at stake, and if you read the statement that the Tuohys released through their lawyers, that is the thing they seem to be most focused on.”

Oher, meanwhile, seems to feel like he was lied to about his place in the family. 

“There’s a sense of betrayal,” said Nerkar. “He said that February 2023 was the first time he learned that he was not legally adopted or part of their family.”

He has made it clear that he didn’t appreciate his portrayal in the “Blind Side” movie as a physically able kid lacking the mental abilities to understand football on his own. 

“When your life is broadcast to the world, and you see the image that people have come to understand about you, it just does not align with what you believe yourself to be, and that is clearly at the core of Michael Oher’s discontent,” said Nerkar.

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