A former defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles has sued the developer and publisher of Gears of War, claiming that he served as the inspiration for a character in the popular video game franchise.
As the Washington Post reports, Lenwood “Skip” Hamilton last week filed a federal complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Gears of War publisher Microsoft and developer Epic Games Inc, claiming that the companies stole his likeness for the character Augustus “Cole Train” Cole.
Hamilton, a Pennsylvania native who is also a former professional wrestler, famously played just one game in his NFL career, joining the Eagles against the Cowboys in 1987 during a mid-season strike. The Eagles won that game, 37-20.
Since its initial release in 2006, the Gears of War franchise has reportedly earned roughly $1 billion in revenue, according to Forbes. The game focuses on a war between future mankind and the Locust Horde, a group of reptilian humanoids fighting to dominate the Earth.
Microsoft purchased the franchise from Epic Games Inc. in 2014. Hamilton, in his lawsuit, says that he first became aware of the game in the winter of 2015 thanks to his son’s friends, and claims he is entitled to a share of profits and royalties from its sales.
The former Eagle says Gears of War developers ad publishers stole his face, speech patterns, and mannerisms for Augustus Cole, one of the franchise’s most popular characters. Additionally, Cole is the only character among the game’s four main protagonists who is black.
Cole is also a former athlete in the series. He formerly played “thrashball,” Gears of Wars’ version of football. During his time as a thrashball star, Cole’s number was 83 — the same year the suit says Hamilton unsuccessfully tried out to join the Eagles. The lawsuit also alleges that elements such as Cole’s “derby hat, wristbands, a front gold tooth, and a striking resemblance of both physiognomy and body build” are also taken from Hamilton.
The complaint states that the connection between Hamilton and Gears of War is Lester Speight, a former football player turned actor who voiced Cole for the game franchise. According to the suit, Hamilton and Speight worked together at Hamilton’s now-defunct Soul City Wrestling in Philadelphia in the late 1990s. It was during that time period that the suit alleges Speight “discussed plans for a video game with Hamilton,” which Hamilton declined to pursue.
A publicist for Speight told the Washington Post that the Cole voiceover is an entirely original creation from Speight, who is “the voice of the character.” The rep added, “I don’t even know who Lenwood Hamilton is.”
For his role as Cole, Speight won a G-Phoria award for “Best Voiceover” in 2007, and reprised his role as Cole in Gears of War 2 in 2008, Gears of War 3 in 2011, and Gears of War: Judgement in 2013. He is also known for portraying Terry Tate, Office Linebacker in a series of commercials for Reebok during Super Bowl XXXVII.
Hamilton, a Norristown resident, notes in the suit that he has endured a “hard scrabble life” that included a rape charge when he was in college in the early 1980s. The charge, Hamilton says on his website, caused serious damage to his football career even though the accuser recanted her testimony and dropped the charges. He spent more than four months in jail due to the accusation.
“I’ve gone through hell,” Hamilton said in a newspaper clipping from the 1980s posted to his website. “I spent four months and 16 days in jail during this thing. Those were miserable days, and days I can’t get back.”
The former Eagle alleges that Gears of War developers and publishers violated the Lanham Act (also known as the Trademark Act of 1946) and invaded his privacy, and is seeking punitive damages. Hamilton is represented by attorney Bruce Chasan of Philadelphia.