Since Michael Oher, former NFL player and subject of the film, The Blind Side, filed his lawsuit, questions and speculation have abounded about what could be the impetus behind Oher’s allegations and legal challenge. Some commenters across the board speculate that the Tuohys used Oher for his story and ripped him off. Others surmised that Oher has fallen on hard times since his retirement from pro sports and is looking for an easy payday. After Monday’s story broke, there was radio silence from Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy and others in the family like the Tuohys’ biological son and daughter. That ended Monday evening when Sean Tuohy, Sr. wrote a statement in The Daily Memphian expressing his shock over what appeared to him to be a sudden turn of events.
Sean Tuohy has responded to Michael Oher‘s claims that he and his wife never adopted him with a statement to The Daily Memphian. “We’re devastated,” he told the outlet hours after news broke regarding Michael’s petition. “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.”
That last line is interesting because Tuohy’s son (and his namesake) Sean Tuohy (“SJ”), Jr. appeared on a video call that same evening with Barstool Sports and expressed almost the exact same sentiment: “I’m going to preface this by saying I loved Mike at 16… I love Mike now at 37 and I’ll love him at 67.”
Tuohy, Sr. claimed in his statement that he did not profit from the film. Tuohy alleged that The Blind Side book author Michael Lewis gave the family half of his share, which was split among the members, including Michael Oher.
Everybody in the family got an equal share, including Michael. It was about $14,000, each. We were never offered money; we never asked for money. My money is well-documented; you can look up how much I sold my company for.”
Tuohy, Sr. was upset that people would think he wanted to make money off his children. Tuohy, Sr. then discussed Oher’s conservatorship claims.
“Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn’t like that,” Tuohy, Sr. claimed. “They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family. 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.”
One commenter questioned why, once Oher was drafted by the NFL and had a good career, did he allow the conservatorship to continue? In the legal filings, Oher claimed that he did not discover the conservatorship until February, but surely he had his own lawyers who looked over his documents in his six or so years of negotiating contracts with the NFL?
Lingering questions that will be answered in court.
The restaurateur made sure to note that he is willing to end the conservatorship if that is what Michael wants. “Of course,” he told the local outlet. “I want whatever Michael wants.” He concluded the statement by claiming that they will not stand in the former athlete’s way if he wants to distance himself from the Tuohy family. “It’s upsetting, but it’s life, what are you going to do? Certain people will believe us and certain people won’t. It’s hard because you have to defend yourself, but whatever he wants, we’ll do,” Tuohy, Sr. said.
According to Tuohy, Jr., this chilling of the familial relationship between Oher and the Tuohys was not sudden. While he could not pinpoint a particular timeframe, Tuohy, Jr. alleged that it occurred on again and off again over a series of years. But Tuohy, Jr. refused to say anything derogatory or damaging about Oher.
“I will never, you will never hear me say anything bad about Michael Oher in any capacity, other than I’m upset that he feels the way that he does, and some of the things mentioned in the probate, or the book, I don’t agree with.”
Oher’s own memoir, When Your Back’s Against the Wall: , was released on August 8. One of the things that upset Tuohy, Jr. is that Oher claims in the book that he only lived with Touhys for a few months when Touhy, Jr. claimed it was a period of years. Oher even bought Touhy, Jr. his first car.
“There’s a hundred things in my life that would never have happened if he were not there. You’re not going to hear me talk about him, because truthfully, I think very highly of him.”
Dave Portnoy and his hosts said something at the end of the interview, which I wholeheartedly agree with: This feels like a family dispute. Whatever broke down relationally between Michael Oher and the Tuohys has reached the point where it is being played out in a court of law. Records will be subpoenaed and combed through, and testimony will be taken to see if there is any legitimate fraud or malfeasance. For all we know, this is an issue that could have been better dealt with in family therapy.
Family therapy would have cost everyone less money, but would not have gotten nearly as much attention.