The Blind Side tells Michael Oher's life story. But much of his heart warming tale was a lie.

In 2009, The Blind Side hit cinemas and brought us all to tears. 

It told the 'true' story of Michael Oher. The 192 centimetre 17-year-old from Tennessee whose mother was a drug addict and left her son to fend for himself. The teen had been bouncing around foster homes, friend’s couches and the streets since he was 11, before he was taken in by a friend’s mum on Thanksgiving in 2004. 

Enter Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the determined and domineering matriarch who pushed and supported Oher into becoming an NFL star.

He went on to have an eight-year football career, playing for the Ravens, Titans and Panthers, his story was told first through the book by Michael Lewis, and then the movie, which grossed over $462 million. 

But 14 years later, it's been revealed that the true story was actually very different.

It was all a lie.

It turns out Oher was never adopted by Leigh Anne and her husband Sean. 

Instead, the then 18-year-old was tricked into signing a conservatorship contract, which meant his legal rights were stripped away and he never made a single cent from the film, as reported by NBC News

In the meantime it was the Tuohys, including their birth children, who benefited from his business deals.

It wasn’t until six months ago, in February 2023, that the now 37-year-old finally learned what had happened, “to his chagrin and embarrassment”. On Monday he filed a 14-page petition in Shelby Court, Tennessee to terminate the conservatorship.


Leigh Anne Tuohy and husband Sean with Michael Oher. Image: Facebook/Leigh Anne Tuohy.

“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 undersigned Michael Oher,” the court filing read. 

“At no point did the Tuohys inform Michael that they would have ultimate control of all of his contracts, and as a result Michael did not understand that if the Conservatorship was granted, he was signing away his right to contract of himself.”


According to the papers, the Tuohys negotiated a deal with 20th Century Fox that ensured them a contract price of $225,000 in addition to 2.5 per cent of the film’s net proceeds, while Oher was left without any payment for the rights to his name, likeness and life story. 

“Where other parents of Michael’s classmates saw Michael simply as a nice kid in need, Conservators Sean Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy saw something else,” the petition said. 

“A gullible young man whose athletic talent could be exploited for their own benefit.” 

Oher didn’t like the movie. 

As well as terminating the contract, Oher wants the court to issue an injunction barring the Tuohys from using his name and likeness, and require them to pay both compensatory and punitive damages determined by the court.

While Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy are yet to respond to the petition, their son Sean Tuohy Jr, known as SJ, said issues between his parents and Oher had built up over time, but that his dad had given Oher a check a few years after the movie came out. 

“I get it, why he’s mad, I understand,” he told Barstool Sports. “It stinks that it will play out on the public stage. That part sucks.” 


In an interview with ESPN from 2015, three years before Oher retired, the NFL star said the movie had damaged his football career.

“People look at me, and they take things away from me because of a movie,” he said. “They don’t really see the skills and the kind of player I am. That’s why I get downgraded so much, because of something off the field. 

“This stuff, calling me a bust, people saying if I can play or not, that has nothing to do with football. It’s something else off the field. That’s why I don’t like that movie.”

Image: Warner Bros/Mamamia.

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