Michael A. FletcherESPN4 minutes of reading
A Tennessee family accused of cheating retired NFL star Michael Oher out of conservatorship and all the proceeds of a blockbuster movie about his life responded to the allegations Tuesday, saying Oher threatened to go public with his story if he didn’t pay them. $15 million.
Attorney Martin Singer issued a statement on behalf of the Tuohys that called Oher’s claims “extraordinary” and that “the fact that Mr. Oher’s family has always sought to profit is not only offensive, it’s downright ridiculous.”
“In fact, the Tuohys opened their home to Mr. Oher and provided him with structure, support and, above all, unconditional love,” Singer’s statement said. “They continue to treat him like a son and one of their three children. His response was to threaten them with negative news about them in the press if they didn’t pay $15 million.”
Oher’s lawyer, J. Gerard Strange IV declined to comment when contacted by ESPN on Tuesday.
The story of Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy and their efforts to help Oher rise from poverty to the NFL was immortalized in the 2009 movie “The Blind Side.” on Monday, Oher pleaded in a Tennessee probate court that the central element of the story — that the Tuohys adopted him — was a lie concocted by the family to enrich itself. Instead, less than three months after Oher turned 18 in 2004, the petition says, the couple tricked him into signing a document that gave them legal authority to enter into business deals in his name.
The lawsuit further alleges that the Tuohys used their power as conservators in a deal that paid them and their two newborn children millions of dollars in royalties from an Oscar-winning movie that grossed more than $300 million, and that Oher got nothing for a story. It wouldn’t have happened without him.” According to legal filings, the film paid the Tuohys $225,000 each and 2.5% of the film’s “limited net proceeds.” In the years since, the Tuohys have continued to call the 37-year-old Oher their adopted son and help develop their foundation, as well as a writer and inspiration. They also used that emphasis to promote Leigh Anne Tuohy’s work as a speaker.
In her statement, Singer said agents for Michael Lewis, author of the bestselling book “The Blind Side,” negotiated a deal in which the Tuohy family “received a small advance from the production company and a small percentage of net profits.”
“They insisted on dividing any money equally, and they have kept that promise,” the statement said. “The evidence — documented in profit-sharing checks and studio accounting reports — is clear: For years, the Tuohys have paid Mr. Oher an equal cut of every penny earned from ‘The Blind Side.’ “He started threatening to do what he would do and, as part of the shakedown effort, refused to cash small profit checks from the Tuohys, but Mr. Oher’s equal share in a trust account they had set up for his son.”
Singer’s report notes that Oher “has actually tried to run this play several times before — but it seems that many attorneys stopped representing him once they saw the evidence and learned the truth. Unfortunately, Mr. Oher finally found a preferred secretary and filed this farcical attempt to gain attention in the midst of his latest book tour.” case.”
In his court petition, Oher is asking a judge to terminate the conservatorship awarded to the Tuohys in August 2004 and a full accounting of the money the Tuohys made using Oher’s name. as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Singer said the family will not oppose the removal of their guardian, but “will not hesitate to defend their good name and stand up to this shakedown and defeat this assault case.”