Former Philadelphia Eagles football player Lenwood Hamilton has filed a lawsuit claiming that the creators of the Gears of War video game franchise lifted his physical likeness and imitated his voice to create the character Augustus “Cole Train” Cole, according to a TMZ report.
The lawsuit’s defendants include publisher Microsoft, series creator Epic Games, and Cole’s voice actor, Lester Speight.
Cole played a central role in 2006’s Gears of War for the Xbox 360 and made multiple appearances throughout the sequels that followed. A 2013 spinoff, Gears of War: Judgment, cast Cole as a playable character. Cole most recently appeared in 2016’s Gears of War 4 for the Xbox One and PC platforms.
Notably, Cole’s in-game backstory focuses on the fact that he was once a professional player of “thrashball,” a fictional sport similar to American football. Hamilton cites this key similarity in his suit.
Gamesindustry.biz, which obtained a copy of the lawsuit, says the suit states: “The similarities of the avatar ‘Cole Train’ and Hard Rock Hamilton include that both are black (and ‘Cole Train’ is the only black avatar in the Gears of War series), they both played professional football (although in Gears of War the game is called ‘thrashball’), Cole Train’s number is 83 (same year that Hamilton played for the Philadelphia Eagles — 1983), the derby hat, wristbands, a front gold tooth, and a striking resemblance of both physiognomy and body build.”
Hamilton also claims Speight, who previously starred as office linebacker Terry Tate in a series of Reebok commercials, played a role in replicating his likeness. While working at the independent Philadelphia wrestling organization Soul City Wrestling in 1998, Hamilton and Speight allegedly discussed a potential video game featuring a character similar to Hamilton. A forensic examiner cited in Hamilton’s suit additionally claims that Cole’s in-game voice matches Hamilton’s “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.”