What Michael Oher's Relationship With The Tuohy Family Is Really Like Now

In 2009 the life of NFL offensive lineman Michael Oher came to public prominence through the Oscar-winning film "The Blind Side." In the film, the young, homeless Oher gets taken by a wealthy family that sets him on the path to success in professional football, wherein he overcomes adversity and realizes his potential. It's an intentionally schmaltzy, crowd-pleasing film that did its job with both critics and fans. Sandra Bullock even won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Actress for the film in the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, Oher's staunch caretaker and adoptive parent. Or at least, the Tuohy family said they'd adopted Oher. The reality, though, like the facts behind "The Blind Side," is a little more complicated.

Fast forward to August 2023, and ESPN reported that Michael Oher filed a petition against the Tuohys claiming that they had not only never adopted him, but tricked him into signing papers that made them conservators capable of signing business deals in his name. The Tuohy family has gone on to earn millions in royalties from "The Blind Side," while Oher apparently hasn't seen a cent. "The lie of Michael's adoption is one upon which Co-Conservators Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy have enriched themselves at the expense of their Ward," the filing states. 

The Tuohys, meanwhile, have stated that they never intended to use Oher for financial gain. As for the ins and outs of Oher and the Tuohys' relationship, things have definitely gone from bad to worse. 

Quietly building acrimony

Acrimony was brewing between Michael Oher and the Tuohys as far back as "The Blind Side's" 2009 release. On ESPN, Oher's lawyer J. Gerard Stranch IV says that, "Mike's relationship with the Tuohy family started to decline when he discovered that he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent." Oher never publicly spoke ill of the Tuohy family, although his feelings came out in his dislike of the film. "People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie," he said on ESPN in 2015. "They don't really see the skills and the kind of player I am."

Since then things between Oher and the Tuohys have apparently gotten worse. Stranch said, "Their relationship continued to deteriorate as he [Oher] learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks from the movie, and it was permanently fractured when he realized he wasn't adopted and a part of the family." At the time of writing Oher himself hasn't made any additional statements regarding his situation, but perhaps his petition speaks for itself.

For their part the Tuohys seemed shocked and blindsided by Oher's petition. After initially not speaking out about the situation, Sean Touhy on ESPN said, "We're devastated ... 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."

Conservatorship, not adoption

Much of the dispute between Michael Oher and the Tuohys results from the details of Oher's transition to legal adulthood. According to the petition, per ESPN, the Tuohys manipulated Oher into signing documents several months after he turned 18 that made the Tuohys his conservators, not his adoptive family. With the power to conduct business deals in his name, the petition alleges, the Tuohys colluded their way into millions that Oher never saw. To complicate things further, "The Blind Side" movie is actually based on the 2006 book of the same name. Oher does get money from the book sales, but not the movie sales. Oher, for the record, turn 18 two years prior in 2004.

As ESPN says, Oher's petition seeks to end the Tuohys' conservatorship over him. It also asks for Oher's share of the money that the Tuohys have earned using his name, as well as money from other damages. "Since at least August of 2004," the petition reads, "Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control ... All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher." How this entire situation will play out remains to be seen, including whether or not Oher and the Tuohys will personally reconcile their differences.