The real story behind the movie The Blind Side gets more and more complicated as time passes.
On Monday, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy filed a new court claim alleging former NFL player Michael Oher — who they took in while he was a teenager — attempted to extort US$15 million (over CAD$20.3 million) from them.
Oher, whose life served as inspiration for the book and film The Blind Side, filed a lawsuit in August against the Tuohy parents that accused them of using a conservatorship to gain control of his finances. He claimed Sean and Leigh Anne have made “millions” profiting off his name and story since the Oscar-winning movie was released in 2009.
Oher asked for his conservatorship to be terminated, as well as for a full accounting of the money earned off the use of his name and story. He is seeking any money owed to him, as well as compensatory and punitive damages determined by the court.
In their latest legal filing, the Tuohys alleged Oher, 37, threatened to ruin their public image if they did not send him money, according to CBS News, who viewed the paperwork.
Sean, 64, and Leigh Anne, 63, provided the court with several text messages and emails allegedly from Oher that demanded he be sent US$10 million (about C$13.6 million). He said if he did not receive the funds, he would out the Tuohys as “thieves” to TMZ or on social media.
“If something isn’t resolved this Friday, I’m going to go ahead and tell the world, how I was robbed by my suppose to be [sic] parents,” one alleged text message from Oher reads. “That’s the deadline.”
In another text submitted by the Tuohys, Oher changed his demand from $10 million to $15 million “after taxes.”
“Think how it will look when this comes out,” Oher wrote in another alleged message.
Sean and Leigh Anne’s lawyers did not provide the court with any of the couple’s responses to Oher’s messages.
The couple said Oher only began demanding money after his professional football career came to an end and he was “no longer making a significant amount of money.”
“Needless to say, the menacing demands were shocking and hurtful to the Tuohys, who had always treated Mr. Oher with kindness and love,” the court documents read.
The Tuohys asked the court to deny Oher’s request for a temporary injunction in the case. They have also maintained that they do not owe Oher any money. Oher has not yet commented publicly on the Tuohys’ latest legal filing.
His conservatorship was terminated in September. Oher is still asking for the money he believes he is owed.
The Tuohys said they established the legal guardianship when Oher was 18 to help him obtain health insurance, a driver’s licence and to allow him to be admitted to college. The couple said the conservatorship allowed Oher to skirt NCAA rules that may have impeded his ability to play football for the University of Mississippi, where the Tuohys were donors.
As for movie royalties, the Tuohys claimed they “never negotiated any contract with 20th Century Fox or others” in regard to the movie The Blind Side. They said arrangements were made by Michael Lewis, who wrote the book of the same name.
The Tuohys said the payment from the film was split between them, Oher and the couple’s two biological children, Collins Tuohy and Sean Tuohy Jr.
They claimed everyone, including Oher, “received a portion of the money paid to Michael Lewis which was something less than US$225,000” (about C$304,500).
Oher has called this equal split unfair and suggested the Tuohy family had their logic “backwards.” He said he should have been given 80 per cent of the proceeds, while the Tuohy family should have received 20 per cent.
As part of his original lawsuit, Oher also told the court he had never been formally adopted by the Tuohy family, despite thinking he had been. Oher said he only learned about the conservatorship this year.
In September, the Tuohys submitted court documents that claimed there was “never an intent to adopt” Oher, and they denied ever telling him otherwise. They note that they “occasionally” called Oher “son,” the word was always used “in the colloquial sense.” The couple said they have always felt Oher was like a son to them, just not legally.
Oher was the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Mississippi, and he spent his first five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, where he won a Super Bowl. He played 110 games over eight NFL seasons, including 2014, when he started 11 games for the Tennessee Titans. Oher finished his career with two years in Carolina.
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