The producers of the film “The Blind Side” are wading into the controversy sparked by former NFL player Michael Oher’s claims that he was tricked into signing away what turned out to be vast profits from the story of his life.
Oher’s story of growing up in poverty and powering his way to success as an All-American offensive tackle at Ole Miss and a first-round NFL draft pick was made into the 2009 film based on the book “I Beat the Odds.”
Recently, Oher has claimed he was shortchanged by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple who took him in as a homeless teenager.
He claims he was told he was adopted by the Tuohys, when in fact they were made his legal conservators. Oher says the arrangement diverted money that should have been his into the hands of the Tuohys.
NBC News reported that Oher has filed a petition seeking to end the conservatorship and asking the Tuohys to provide “a full accounting of the profits they made from ‘The Blind Side.’”
Attorney Martin Singer, who represents the Tuohys, has accused Oher of trying to shake down the family.
Calling Oher’s allegations “outlandish,” Singer said in a statement that “the idea that the family ever sought to profit off Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous.”
“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 statement said.
Amid the dueling allegations, Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, co-founders and co-CEOs of Alcon Entertainment, which financed “The Blind Side,” issued a statement about the film and its financial rewards, according to NBC.
“We feel it is now important for us to respond to some recent media reports, which include many mischaracterizations and uninformed opinions,” the statement said.
The statement went on to explain the deal for the film rights to Oher’s life story, which it said was “negotiated by Twentieth Century Fox and inherited by Alcon.”
“It is important to note that in 2006, the nature of life rights deals for books, documentaries and film, as well as the limitations of what college athletes were able to do and maintain eligibility, were very different than they are today,” the statement said.
Johnson and Kosove said the deal was “consistent with the marketplace at that time for the rights of relatively unknown individuals. Therefore, it did not include significant payouts in the event of the film’s success.”
“As a result, the notion that the Tuohys were paid millions of dollars by Alcon to the detriment of Michael Oher is false.
“In fact, Alcon has paid approximately $767,000 to the talent agency that represents the Tuohy family and Michael Oher (who, presumably, took commission before passing it through),” the statement said, noting that the Tuohys and Oher will receive more profits as time goes by.
“The Blind Side” earned more than $300 million at the box office.
Johnson and Kosove found the good in both sides of the current dispute.
They pointed to “the [Tuohys’] wonderful acts of kindness toward Michael Oher” and “the authenticity of the Tuohys loving Michael dearly and raising Michael as their son through the end of high school, and then throughout college and onto the NFL.”
They also cited “the extraordinary courage that Michael Oher demonstrated in accepting the Tuohys’ generosity not as a handout, or as his saviors, but as a way through which he could improve his own life. Michael’s academic accomplishments and athletic achievements demonstrate this.”