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Crisis PR professional gives her take on Michael Oher and the Tuohys' back-and-forth

“Someone like me, who works in public relations, smells fear."

The true story that inspired the "The Blind Side," a book-turned-box office hit, has come under question following allegations from its subject, Michael Oher, about the Tuohy family, who took him in as a teenager.

Molly McPherson, author of the book “Indestructible: Reclaim Control and Respond with Confidence in a Media Crisis,” and whose public relations company focuses on crisis management, parses the back-and-forth between the Tuohys and the Ohers for — and explains why the the Tuohys' response "isn't what she expected."

"Someone like me, who works in public relations, smells fear. It's reasonable to assume that they may be worried a lot of information is going to come out now about the transactional nature of that relationship," McPherson tells

What has Michael Oher said about his relationship with the Tuohys?

Oher, 37, is a former Baltimore Ravens NFL player whose biography seems to precede him. As the story went, Oher overcame poverty and homelessness thanks to the wealthy Tuohy family, who adopted him and helped start his football career.

In a court petition filed in Tennessee and obtained by NBC News Aug. 14 and first reported in an ESPN story, Oher claims that he was never adopted by the Tuohys. Instead, he says couple Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy presented him with papers in 2004 which he believed to be adoption papers, but instead was a petition for a conservatorship.

In the petition, Oher said the Tuohys used the conservatorship to negotiate a business deal with Twentieth Century Fox for the film “The Blind Side," and earned profits he was shut out of.

The former NFL pro has expressed grievance with "The Blind Side" in the past, telling ESPN in 2015 he "didn't like" the movie that made him famous. In his 2023 memoir, Oher said the movie made him out to be "dumb," and didn't capture that his road out of poverty was a "solo journey," which began long before he met the Tuohys.

As part of the lawsuit, Oher wants a full accounting of the money the Tuohys have earned as conservatorship and be paid his share of the profits as well as “compensatory and punitive damages," per the lawsuit.

Breaking down the Tuohys' response from a PR perspective

Sean Tuohy initially responded in an interview on Aug. 14

Sean Tuohy responded to Oher's allegations in an Aug. 14 article published in the Daily Memphian, saying the family was "devastated," and saying it was "upsetting to think we would make money off any of our children."

Sean Tuohy said he never profited from "The Blind Side." Oher's petition says the Tuohys and their two children, Collins and SJ Tuohy, were paid $225,000 each, plus 2.5 percent of "defined net proceeds," per the petition.

McPherson says Sean Tuohy also took a fatherly tone in the interview, as he said, "We’re going to love Michael at 37 just like we loved him at 16.” Finally, he noted that the family was always candid about a conservatorship, which they willingly entered into so Oher could play football for Ole Miss without Sean Tuohy seeming like a "booster" to the NCAA, or a third-party entity supporting an athlete.

Further, while Tennessee law allows for adoption of adults, Tuohy says he was advised to opt for a conservatorship. has reached out to the NCAA for comment.

A statement from the Tuohy family's lawyer came Aug. 15

Marty Singer, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy's lawyer, issued a seven-paragraph statement to TODAY Aug. 15., which began questioning Oher’s intelligence — one of the issues Oher took with his character portrayal in “The Blind Side.”

As he wrote in his 2023 memoir, “I felt like (‘The Blind Side’) portrayed me as dumb instead of as a kid who had never had consistent academic instruction and ended up thriving once he got it."

“Anyone with a modicum of common sense can see that the outlandish claims made by Michael Oher about the Tuohy family are hurtful and absurd. The idea that the Tuohys have ever sought to profit off Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous,” the statement reads.

The statement also said Oher had “attempted to run this play several times before,” which Sean Tuohy Jr. also said in an interview with Barstool Sports Radio, but that “numerous other lawyers stopped representing him once they saw the evidence and learned the truth.” reached out to Oher for comment on Sean Tuohy Jr.'s allegations.

The statement calls Oher’s lawyer a “willing enabler” in a “ludicrous lawsuit,” all a “cynical attempt to drum up attention in the middle of his latest book tour.”

McPherson says the tone in Singer's statement is different than Tuohy's interview in The Daily Memphian, which emphasized the Tuohys' relationship with Oher.

“It was not what I expected,” McPherson says of Singer's statement. “The Tuohys are parents first. That has been their framing about Michael Oher ever since they came in contact with them. The success of ‘The Blind Side’ is rooted in their love and acceptance of Michael Oher."

"The success of ‘The Blind Side’ is rooted in their love and acceptance of Michael Oher.”

Molly McPherson on the Tuohys

McPherson thinks the Tuohys have turned to Singer to "come out as undamaged as possible," but thinks that is going to be "difficult," in part because of the contrast between the statements' tone and their position in the public eye as parents.

“They cannot claim to be caring, supportive adoptive parents and, in the same breath, have a statement put out questioning his intelligence and credibility,” McPherson says.

McPherson is looking at the fault line between Sean Tuohy's first interview and his lawyer's more aggressive response.

“The contrast between Sean Tuohy’s two public statements reveals that the aggressive legal approach taken by his attorney may be a mistake because paints Tuohy and his wife Leigh Anne as inauthentic, which is kryptonite in a public PR battle that is playing out online,” McPherson says. 

How has Oher responded to the Tuohys?

Singer's Aug. 15 statement promoted Don Barrett, attorney for Michael Oher, to issue a brief response Aug. 16.

“We try cases in the courtroom based on the facts. We have confidence in our judicial system and in our client Michael Oher. We believe that justice will be served in the courtroom, and we hope to get there quickly,” Barrett wrote.

McPherson looks to the response's length, especially when compared to Singer's seven-paragraph, lengthy statement.

"Everything that needs to be said about that statement is said in its brevity," she says. "This is a statement that is relying on brevity and facts. It's a way of counter-striking Marty Singer's sensationalized statement with honesty and truth. It's his way of simply saying, 'Your statement is filled with lies, and we can prove it."

How will the public respond? Only time will tell

McPherson is now looking to see how the public responds — a public, she says, that is skeptical and “looking for cracks in stories unlike ever before.”

"Social media will do what social media does. They will start to scrutinize the keynote speaking opportunities. The books, the deals, all the profit that came from being a 'parent' to Michael Oher," she says. "That scrutiny comes with a heavy price, when it comes to reputation."