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Memphis couple to remove references to Michael Oher being adopted amid legal row

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy have agreed to remove references to Michael Oher being their ‘adopted son’ as the former NFL star continues his efforts to force the family to account for money made from the film The Blind Side (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy have agreed to remove references to Michael Oher being their ‘adopted son’ as the former NFL star continues his efforts to force the family to account for money made from the film The Blind Side (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

A lawyer for the Memphis couple who took in former NFL player Michael Oher when he was in high school said that references to Oher being their adopted son will be removed from the couple’s websites and public speaking materials as part of their legal battle over Oher’s finances.

Lawyer Randy Fishman told a Memphis probate judge that mentions of Oher being adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy will be taken off advertising for public speaking engagements and the couple’s websites immediately.

References to Oher being adopted had been a key argument by Oher in his efforts to force the Tuohys to account for money made from the 2009 film The Blind Side, which focuses on Oher’s story and his relationship with the Tuohys.

Oher The Blind Side Football
In documents, former NFL football player Michael Oher, right, says the Tuohys misled him into thinking they had adopted him when they entered into a conservatorship agreement in 2004, when he was 18 (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)

The film earned Sandra Bullock, who starred as Mrs Tuohy, an Academy Award.

Oher said in a court filing in August that the Tuohys misled him into thinking they adopted him when they entered into a conservatorship agreement with him in 2004 when he was 18.

In September, Shelby County Probate Judge Kathleen Gomes ended the conservatorship, which allowed the Tuohys to control Oher’s finances.

Oher, who had a troubled childhood, signed the agreement when he was living with the couple as he was being recruited by colleges as a star high school football player.

Despite the termination of the conservatorship, the legal fight over money made from the film and Oher’s story continues.

Oher claims the Tuohys have used his name, image and likeness to enrich themselves and kept him in the dark about financial dealings related to him and his story.

Oher had previously asked that the judge bar the Tuohys from using his name, image and likeness to make money.

Oher attended the probate court hearing on Wednesday where Mr Fishman told the judge that the Tuohys were removing the adoption references.

The 82nd Academy Awards – Press Room – Los Angeles
Sandra Bullock won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her role as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (Ian West/PA)

Oher did not speak during the hearing.

Judge Gomes said removing the mentions of Oher being adopted by the couple is correct because he is not adopted.

In Tennessee, a conservatorship removes power from a person to make decisions for themselves, and it is often used in the case of a medical condition or disability.

However, Oher’s conservatorship was approved by another judge “despite the fact that he was over 18 years old and had no diagnosed physical or psychological disabilities,” his petition said.

The Tuohys have called the claims they enriched themselves at his expense outlandish, hurtful and absurd and part of a “shakedown” by Oher.

In a court filing, the affluent couple said they loved Oher like a son and provided him with food, shelter, clothing and cars while he lived with them, but denied saying they intended to legally adopt him.

The Tuohys’ filing said Oher referred to them as “mom and dad” and they occasionally referred to Oher as a son.

They acknowledged that websites show them referring to Oher as an adopted son, but the term was only used “in the colloquial sense and they have never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication”.

In a separate court filing, the Tuohys said they received payments from the film’s proceeds from 20th Century Fox and gave Oher one-third of the money, which came out to 138,311 dollars (£109,000).

Oher has challenged that filing, arguing that it does not account for millions generated by public speaking events and alleging Sean Tuohy kept 2.5 million dollars (£1.9 million) Oher had given him to invest on his behalf.

A trial date has not been set in the case.

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 the Carolina Panthers.