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Aaron Hernandez lawyers go to bat for Jemele Hill

Aaron Hernandez lawyers Ronald Sullivan Jr. and Linda Kenney Baden.

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

Aaron Hernandez lawyers Ronald Sullivan Jr. and Linda Kenney Baden.

Two high-powered attorneys who helped win an acquittal for former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez took to Twitter Tuesday to defend Jemele Hill, the embattled ESPN anchor whom the network suspended Monday over some of her tweets.

The lawyers, Linda Kenney Baden and Ronald Sullivan Jr., who defended Hernandez during his second murder trial and continue to represent his estate, suggested Tuesday that ESPN might have violated Connecticut state law when it disciplined Hill.

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The network is headquartered in Bristol, Conn.

“ESPN has set its defense in stone,” Kenney Baden tweeted. “It will not be able to wiggle away from it in court if there is a lawsuit by @jemelehill.”

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She had earlier written that “CT state law . . . expressly guarantees free speech rights in private employment.”

Sullivan, a Harvard Law professor, echoed Kenney Baden’s comments in his own postings.

He tweeted that Hill “has enforceable rights under state law. Limits to when ESPN can silence valid speech.” Sullivan added that while ESPN is a private company, Hill’s “freedom of expression rights here come from a CT state law that protects [First Amendment] speech.”

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The lawyers’ tweets followed ESPN’s announcement Monday that they had suspended Hill for two weeks, after she tweeted that fans angered over Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’s comments about anthem kneeling should “boycott his advertisers,” while citing another tweet from Cowboys sponsors.

Jones earlier said he would not play any player who “disrespects the flag.”

In a statement Monday, ESPN said it was suspending Hill “for a second violation of our social media guidelines.” That was an apparent reference to Hill’s prior tweets calling President Trump a “white supremacist” and “a bigot.”

On Monday, ESPN said Hill “previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”

Kenney Baden and Sullivan were part of the celebrated legal team led by Jose Baez that secured an acquittal for Hernandez in April on charges of killing Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu in a drive-by shooting in Boston in 2012.

Five days after his courtroom victory, Hernandez killed himself in his Shirley prison cell, where he was serving a life term for the June 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez’s lawyers recently filed a lawsuit against the Patriots and the National Football League, alleging they failed to protect him from the adverse effects of CTE. He had an advanced form of the brain condition when he died, the lawyers said.

Rachel G. Bowers of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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