Oher attended his book signing for his novel ‘When Your Back’s Against the Wall’ in Baltimore
Michael Oher stepped out for his first public appearance since alleging in a bombshell petition that Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy lied about adopting him for financial gain.
On Aug. 21, Oher, 37, attended a Baltimore book signing for When Your Back’s Against the Wall: Fame, Football, and Lessons Learned through a Lifetime of Adversity. The former NFL football tackle was photographed smiling for fans who attended the event to get signed copies of the newly-released memoir. Oher briefly addressed the crowd, explaining that he couldn’t say much due to the ongoing legal issue.
“This book, it means a lot to me,” Oher said, according to the Associated Press, at the beginning of the event hosted at The Ivy Bookshop. “Basically, it’s a playbook on life and how I continue to fight back and when your back’s against the wall. That’s how I’ve felt all my life.”
Last week, Oher alleged in his petition that despite saying they were legally adopting him, the Tuohys tricked him at 18 into making them his conservators, a charge which they have strongly denied. The petition also claimed that each of the four members of the Tuohy family were paid $225,000 for The Blind Side, plus 2.5% of the film’s proceeds. Yet “Michael received nothing,” said Oher’s petition, for a “story that would not have existed without him.”
"Mike didn't grow up with a stable family life. When the Tuohy family told Mike they loved him and wanted to adopt him, it filled a void that had been with him his entire life," his attorney J. Gerard Stranch IV told ESPN. "Discovering that he wasn't actually adopted devastated Mike and wounded him deeply." In his petition, Oher is asking for a full accounting of money made off his name, and for those funds to be paid to him with interest.
The Tuohys’ attorney Martin Singer called the allegations “hurtful and absurd,” insisting the Tuohys gave Oher “an equal cut of every penny received” from the film and “consistently treated him like a son.” The Tuohy family's lawyers also said they would end the conservatorship if that was his wish.
"If that's what he wants to do is terminate it, we're glad to do so," lawyer Randall Fishman said in a Memphis press conference. "As a matter of fact, it is our intent to offer to enter into a consent order as it relates to the conservatorship, and then if they have other issues, we'll deal with them."
Fishman said the conservatorship was established with one goal ahead of Oher attending the University of Mississippi, “and that was to make him part of the family so that the NCAA would be satisfied because Sean would have been a booster of the university."
But legal experts have found the nature of Oher's conservatorship puzzling. “A conservator has a lot more control over someone than the parent who has adopted an adult,” Stewart Crane, a Tennessee conservatorship attorney told PEOPLE. “The premise for conservatorship is that the person under the conservatorship is disabled in some way.” (Oher’s conservatorship papers say he was not incapacitated.)
"Well, each member of the family has received the same amount of money," said Tuohy lawyer Steven Farese . "So, imagine a pie divided by five, okay? We estimate each person received $100,000 – each person in the family."
(A source told PEOPLE that the Tuohys have received approximately $700,000 total in rights, payments, and profits, which was intended to be divided between the family members, including Oher.)
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On Wednesday, Oher’s rep said in a statement to PEOPLE they believe "justice will be served in a courtroom where cases are based on facts."
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