The feel good story in 'The Blind Side' takes a dark turn in real life
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
There's a new twist in the story of retired NFL tackle Michael Oher, or whose life story was the subject of the 2009 Hollywood movie, "The Blind Side." It's about how a wealthy white family adopted Oher out of poverty and helped him make it to the NFL. Now, Oher is alleging that a central part of the story is false. In a court filing this week, Oher said he was never adopted and that the Tuohy family tricked him into signing a conservatorship shortly before he - after he turned 18, then earning them millions.
Chris Bumbaca is an NFL reporter for USA Today Sports. Chris, so what is Michael Oher saying about how the family used this conservatorship to their benefit?
CHRIS BUMBACA: Thank you very much for having me. Yes. He's saying that they deceived him and that, instead of legally adopting him - which they said that those were the papers he was signing - they actually got him to sign this conservatorship. And in there, he's alleging that they owe him money from a $225,000 payment they made from the blockbuster hit "The Blind Side," along with 2.5% of defined net proceeds. Now, barring some subsequent agreement, defined net proceeds won't really be that much money in the grand scheme of things, said somebody who litigates in entertainment law, even on a movie that grossed more than 300 million. And the Tuohy's have said this week that they made around mid-five figures each. Nonetheless, Oher requested a full accounting of money that they might have made on his name and likeness, and he's also seeking an injunction on them using their name and likeness in his business and foundation work.
MARTÍNEZ: What did - what does Oher say is the reason why he was told he needed to sign a conservatorship?
BUMBACA: Well, Sean Tuohy, the father figure in this tale, told the Daily Memphian that, for him to attend Ole Miss, where the Tuohys also went to school, they would need to have Michael under this conservatorship to kind of dissuade the NCAA from investigating his attendance at Ole Miss, even though that ended up happening anyway. But the conservatorship was basically presented to Michael as a means of protection, it seems, as Sean Tuohy said in his comments to the Daily Memphian this week.
MARTÍNEZ: And I know that, when a kid is under 18, they would need their parents to sign off on scholarship papers in the NCAA. He was 18. Michael Oher was 18, so he technically wouldn't have needed to sign a conservatorship to play college football, right?
BUMBACA: That is correct. And legal experts I've spoken to have said that there is no basis for this conservatorship to have been signed anyway, even though he was present at the hearing, according to court records, and his mother was there. You know, and he's now saying that he was not aware that this happened at all. So that's definitely, you know, an interesting point. And the fact that this conservatorship even existed is quite, you know, the conundrum.
MARTÍNEZ: It's been 20 years, though, Chris. I mean, so what do we know about the relationship between Michael Oher and the Tuohys over all these years?
BUMBACA: Well, Sean Tuohy Jr., on a radio appearance with Barstool Radio on Monday, said that there has been some distancing from the family since his playing career ended in 2016 and especially in the last few years. And that - you know, now the Tuohy's have come out and said that, you know, this is a baseless petition and that they need to, you know, defend themselves. And that defense is just in its infancy.
MARTÍNEZ: And one more thing, quickly - could this mean that Michael Oher ultimately regains control of his life story that's obviously been very profitable?
BUMBACA: I think so. I think that's ultimately the goal here, in that it doesn't really have much to do with money and that this is just about making sure that he can make decisions for himself.
MARTÍNEZ: Chris Bumbaca is an NFL reporter for USA Today Sports. Chris, thanks.
BUMBACA: Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.