Tuohy Family admits what they really meant when they called Oher their ‘adopted son’
One does not necessarily need to be a legal expert to understand that the cuddly facade the Tuohy family — of “The Blind Side” fame — has put up in public doesn’t really hold as well as it did on the silver screen when it’s put into court filings.
Perhaps you remember “The Blind Side,” either from the Michael Lewis book or from the 2009 film that purported to tell how Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy took in homeless teen Michael Oher and nurtured him as he matured into a football player at the NCAA and NFL level.
Sandra Bullock was Leigh Anne and Tim McGraw was Sean in the film, if that gives you any idea of what the familial vibe was supposed to be there.
But the public perception of the relationship of the Tuoy family and Oher has changed in recent months, after Oher filed a lawsuit against the Tuoys in a Tennessee probate court.
Much of the public might have been under the impression that Oher was the family’s adopted son — multiple outlets, including Fox News, the Cincinnati Enquirer and Rolling Stone, among others, have noted that the Tuoys have apparently referred to him that way — and Oher referred to them as “mom” and “dad.”
Oher’s lawsuit filed in Tennessee probate court last month, however, revealed that the relationship was actually a conservatorship — and arrangement in which the Tuoys acted as Oher’s legal guardians.
Oher claims the Tuohys used their relationship to peddle his story and get rich off it. So, what’s their excuse for the “adopted son” remarks?
Well, according to Fox News, lawyers for the couple admitted in court documents filed Thursday that they had called him their adoptive son on certain occasions. The occasions are not specified, but it’s unlikely the couple would perjure themselves in a way that would harm their case.
However, according to documents quoted by Fox, the Tuohys insist the term was used “in the colloquial sense and they have never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication.”
As Fox noted, Oher’s lawsuit accuses the couple “of falsely representing themselves as his adoptive parents, saying he discovered in February the conservatorship that was agreed to nearly 20 years ago was not the arrangement he thought. Oher claimed the Tuohys kept him in the dark when it came to financial dealings.”
“The Tuohys have repeatedly denied Oher’s claims and on Thursday maintained their willingness to end the conservatorship. The family said they loved Oher like a son and provided him with food, shelter, clothing and cars while he lived with them. They denied saying they intended to legally adopt him.”
In the suit, NBC News reported, Oher sought an end to the conservatorship and demanded the couple provide “a full accounting of the profits they made from ‘The Blind Side.’”
Now, of course, there’s another side of the story, with the family saying that the 37-year-old Oher is trying to shake them down and “the idea that the family ever sought to profit off Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous.”
While admitting in court documents that you called someone your adoptive son only “in the colloquial sense and … never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication” looks pretty bad, the Oher/Tuohy case is a muddled one indeed, and one where it’s difficult to discern who is right, if indeed anyone is.
For the Tuohys’ part, Sean says that the conservatorship took effect when Oher wanted to go to the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss, to play football.
“Michael was obviously living with us for a long time, and the NCAA didn’t like that,” Tuohy said in an interview with The Daily Memphian. “They said the only way Michael could go to Ole Miss was if he was actually part of the family.”
“We contacted lawyers who had told us that we couldn’t adopt over the age of 18. The only thing we could do was to have a conservatorship. We were so concerned it was on the up-and-up that we made sure the biological mother came to court.”
Furthermore, the family does have character witnesses on their side — some more naturally believable than others, it’s worth noting.
Hugh Freeze — currently the head football coach at Auburn University, but Oher’s head coach in high school and an assistant coach while Oher was at Ole Miss — took the family’s side.
“I know this: If Michael called Sean [Tuohy] right now and said, ‘let’s work this thing out,’ Sean and Leigh Anne would be there in a hurry to hug his neck and tell him he’s loved,” Freeze said last month.
It is worth noting, however, that Freeze has what sportswriters like to euphemistically call “character issues;” after rising from assistant coach to head coach at Ole Miss, he was forced to resign after it was revealed he had called an escort service from a school-issued phone; it was reported he was kicked to the curb after the school discovered “a pattern of personal misconduct.”
#OleMiss: Hugh Freeze forced out after “a pattern of personal misconduct” that was discovered & “is totally unrelated to the NCAA case.”
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 21, 2017
The school was later forced to vacate 27 of the team’s wins under Freeze’s tenure and received a two-year ban from postseason play due to recruiting violations, as Sports Illustrated notes. So, you know, there’s that.
(For what it’s worth, Freeze has undergone his own attempt at a redemption arc, taking the head coaching job at Liberty University, a Christian school, after being fired at Ole Miss in 2017. He then got the Auburn job in 2022 even after a controversial period at Liberty.)
However, “The Blind Side” author Michael Lewis — a creative nonfiction icon whose other authorial efforts include “Moneyball,” “The Big Short” and “Liar’s Poker” — is somewhat more credible as a character witnes.
According to an August interview with The Washington Post, he also backs the Tuohys, saying they “planned to evenly split their share [of the movie profits] with Oher, who declined the payments in what may be a prelude to a lawsuit.”
The major issue, Lewis told the Post, may not be greed on either the side of Oher or the Tuohys but on the part of the Hollywood system.
“Michael Oher should join the writers strike,” Lewis said. “It’s outrageous how Hollywood accounting works, but the money is not in the Tuohys’ pockets.”
“What I feel really sad about is I watched the whole thing up close,” Lewis added. “They showered him with resources and love. That he’s suspicious of them is breathtaking. The state of mind one has to be in to do that — I feel sad for him.”
This jibes with what Sean Tuohy told the Daily Memphian, an online publication, saying they “didn’t make any money off the movie … Well, [‘Blind Side’ author] Michael Lewis gave us half of his share.”
What’s clear is this: Michael Lewis’ book and the subsequent film — as well as Oher’s own book “I Beat the Odds” — present a much neater arrangement than court documents now seem to show.
What’s also clear is this: Michael Oher was big business. The film “The Blind Side” alone took home $309 million worldwide on a $29 budget, according to Box Office Mojo.
Who got what from that isn’t clear. Perhaps this is a shakedown by Oher, as the family’s attorney seems to attest to. One of their most outspoken witnesses so far, however, is a serially disgraced college football coach.
Another, however, is a decorated writer who has no reason to lie to preserve his reputation.
The problem here is optics. Yes, this is an ugly situation — but the Tuohy’s best argument that Oher wasn’t led astray as to what he believed his position in the family was, at least from what we’re hearing reported about court filings, is that they’ve only meant that he was their adoptive son “in the colloquial sense and they have never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication.”
One can reserve judgment on this ugly and wretched situation until it finally plays out in full — but for the moment, it’s safe to say that none of these characters look as good as they did on film.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
The post Tuohy Family admits what they really meant when they called Oher their ‘adopted son’ appeared first on WND.