Blind Side Family Accuses Michael Oher of Attempting $15 Million “Shakedown” Before Court Filing

Earlier this week, retired NFL star Michael Oher accused Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of tricking him into a conservatorship and taking all the proceeds from the Oscar-winning film The Blind Side based on his life story. The family responded with allegations of their own on Tuesday, accusing Oher of threatening to go public with his claims unless they paid him $15 million.

In a lengthy statement through attorney Martin Singer (via TMZ), the Tuohys called Oher’s claims “outlandish” and “absurd,” adding that “the idea that the family ever sought to profit off Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous.”

“In reality, the Tuohys opened their home to Mr. Oher, offered him structure, support and, most of all, unconditional love,” the statement continues. “They have consistently treated him like a son and one of their three children. His response was to threaten them, including saying that he would plant a negative story about them in the press unless they paid him $15 million.”

The Tuohys have long called Oher their adopted son since bringing him into their home while he was a star high school football player. On Monday, Oher filed a petition in a Tennessee court alleging that the Tuohys never formally adopted him, but instead tricked him into signing conservatorship papers shortly after he turned 18, which gave them legal authority to make dealings in his name.

The filing alleges the Tuohys used their powers as conservators to sign a deal that paid them and their two birth children millions of dollars in royalties from The Blind Side, while Oher never saw a dime from the story “that would not have existed without him.” According to the petition, the Tuohys received $225,000 each, plus 2.5% of the movie’s defined net proceeds.

In the statement, Singer said agents for Michael Lewis, Sean Tuohy’s childhood friend and author of the bestselling book that became The Blind Side, negotiated for a deal in which the Tuohys “received a small advance from the production company and a tiny percentage of net profits.”

“They insisted that any money received be divided equally. And they have made good on that pledge,” the statement reads. “The evidence — documented in profit participation checks and studio accounting statements — is clear: over the years, the Tuohys have given Mr. Oher an equal cut of every penny received from The Blind Side. Even recently, when Mr. Oher started to threaten them about what he would do unless they paid him an eight-figure windfall, and, as part of that shakedown effort refused to cash the small profit checks from the Tuohys, they still deposited Mr. Oher’s equal share into a trust account they set up for his son.”

After news of Oher’s claims came to light, Sean Tuohy admitted to the conservatorship and told the Daily Memphian that the only reason it existed in the first place was to appease NCAA booster rules. Tuohy also claimed that he was told by lawyers that they “couldn’t adopt over the age of 18,” but there is nothing in Tennessee law that prohibits adult adoption. According to the statement, the conservatorship was “established to assist with Mr. Oher’s needs, ranging from getting him health insurance and obtaining a driver’s license to helping with college admissions.”

Singer’s statement went on to accuse Oher of attempting to “run this play several times before — but it seems that numerous other lawyers stopped representing him once they saw the evidence and learned the truth. Sadly, Mr. Oher has finally found a willing enabler and filed this ludicrous lawsuit as a cynical attempt to drum up attention in the middle of his latest book tour.”

One of Oher’s lawyers, attorney Don Barrett, responded in a separate statement saying, “We try cases in the courtroom based on the facts. We have confidence in our judicial system and in our client Michael Oher. We believe that justice will be served in the courtroom, and we hope to get there quickly.”

Oher’s court petition asks for a judge to end the conservatorship and seeks a full accounting of the money that the Tuohys earned using his name, a fair share of the profits, and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

For their part, the Tuohys said through Singer that they will not oppose terminating the conservatorship, but “will not hesitate to defend their good names, stand up to this shakedown and defeat this offensive lawsuit.”