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What ever happened to the Buffalo Jills?

As I was reporting today’s feature on the new documentary “A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem,” I watched the film with a former Buffalo Jills co-captain, Loren Kuwik, who is staunchly opposed to the lawsuits filed by her former teammates who say they should have been compensated as employees.  

“It was never about the money for everybody,” Kuwik told me. “That’s the part that drives us all so crazy. Would it have been great for all of us to get paid like employees? Sure. But it was never about that. Ever.”

I asked Kuwik why. Why were she and many of her teammates willing – eager, really – to voluntarily purchase a uniform, front the money for swimsuit calendars, attend regular practices and maintain exacting physical standards, while getting paid for hardly any of it? The Jills experience, Kuwik explained, was about the excitement of game days, the sisterlike bond with teammates, the chance to serve the community through charitable appearances, and also the opportunity to keep dancing or cheering past school.

In a separate conversation, another dancer echoed those thoughts. Janelle Tagliarino, who had danced most of her life, remembered graduating from Sweet Home High School in 2013 and thinking, “What am I going to do now?” Like many serious dancers, Tagliarino had rehearsed at her studio every day and traveled several times a year for shows and competitions. Now, her lifelong pursuit seemed to be over. Then her friend Stephanie Oswald, who danced for lacrosse’s Buffalo Bandettes, suggested she audition for the team. “I just wanted to do it because I loved to dance,” Tagliarino said. “Money was never a factor at all.”

It’s not my role to agree or disagree with my interviewees, but this helped me see their perspective. In dance – just as in music lessons, sports or virtually any childhood pursuit – you’re paying for lessons, outfits, travel and more. To the point of the other Jills who filed suit, there’s a clear argument to be made that at the pro level, those things should change. But many cheerleaders weren’t thinking about that. They were prioritizing a love of dancing or cheering, the excitement of a team atmosphere and the bond between teammates.

In the case of the Bandettes, they did get paid for games when Tagliarino started, and after the Jills’ lawsuits in 2014, started getting paid an hourly wage for all their work. “Once I found out they got paid for it,” Tagliarino said, “I was like, ‘That’s even better.’ ”

— Tim O'Shei

WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT

Corwin: IJC exploring additional flood relief measures: The new American chairwoman of the International Joint Commission – former Assemblywoman Jane Corwin of Clarence – says the binational agency has already acted to relieve flooding along Lake Ontario. But she said the commission is looking to do even more.

David Bellavia prepares for a life changed forever by Medal of Honor: The Army recently announced that Bellavia will receive the prestigious medal on June 25 at the White House. Bellavia, now on leave from his WBEN Radio talk show, met with reporters Tuesday when he reflected on the events of Nov. 10, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq. During intense, house-to-house fighting that day, Bellavia is credited with saving the lives of the squad he led. Listen to Bellavia during the news conference in audio posted by WBEN.

Amid much noise, dealmaking looms in Albany: "Democracy, New York style, made for one very loud hour at the Capitol Tuesday," writes The News' Tom Precious. He reports the activity is a precursor for the coming two weeks as the 2019 legislative session winds down.

He believed in miracles: The harrowing life of POW Rudolf Gibas: He escaped from a German prisoner of war camp. He parachuted behind enemy lines the day before D-Day to blow up a bridge, suffering wounds from an explosion. Rudolf Gibas, who worked his entire career as a chemist at GM Tonawanda, died Sunday in the Mary and Ralph Wilson Jr. Hospice Inpatient Unit in Cheektowaga. Anne Neville shares Gibas’ riveting story.

1 in 4 Catholics giving less due to clergy sex abuse, survey finds: The Pew Research Center survey finds that more than a quarter of U.S. Catholics are going to Mass less often and reducing their giving to a parish or diocese due to reports of clergy sex abuse and misconduct in the Catholic Church. Earlier this month, The News' Jay Tokasz reported Buffalo Diocese parish collections were down last fall by an average of 7.5% at a variety of parishes surveyed by the diocese.

(Got a news tip? Email citydesk@buffnews.com.)

FOOD & DRINK

"Like an Italian Chick fil-A": Chef's launches new model in Amherst: The iconic local Italian American restaurant will launch Chef's On the Go at 5483 Sheridan Drive. It will have counter service, no servers and a pickup window. The eating area will have 50 to 60 seats, and will sell wine and beer. The News' Andrew Galarneau says the recipes will be identical to what Chef's serves at its Seneca Street restaurant.

Buffalo-area restaurants invest in greener packaging: Hold the Styrofoam. As plastics stuff landfills, dot landscapes and form trash archipelagos in our oceans, more local places have been investing in alternatives made from trees, corn, bamboo, and sugar cane, among other biodegradable and recyclable alternatives.

NEW BUFFALO

Lessons learned at Northland Workforce Training Center: The $65 million facility opened last September as a state-of-the-art center to train people to work as technicians, machinists, welders and electricians. Spectrum News Buffalo’s Andy Young visits the East Side facility and reports that an expansion is already planned.

OPINION

Editorial: Rx roulette: If the escalating costs of prescription drugs don’t already count as an American crisis, they are the next thing to it, writes The News’ editorial board. We’ve all heard stories – perhaps within our families or circles of friends – of people on prescription drugs who cut pills in half or go without food. Many of these heartbreaking situations involve seniors who struggle on fixed incomes. The fast-approaching end of the state legislative session includes several bills aimed at reducing the costs of brand-name drugs, encouraging generic alternatives and protecting consumers. The editorial board says they all deserve consideration.

BILLS

Bills' new center Mitch Morse is good to go: Mitch Morse, who signed a four-year, $44.5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills in free agency, took the field for the first time Tuesday during minicamp. He missed earlier team activity this offseason while recovering from surgery to fix a core muscle injury (also known as a sports hernia).

Bills wide receiver Robert Foster suffers foot injury, and other updates: Foster apparently suffered a foot injury last week and the team still doesn't know the severity. That sounds bad, but Foster was seen jogging along the sideline Tuesday while the rest of the team practiced, so maybe the Bills are just being careful with him. Foster is expected to make the team.

(For more Bills news, sign up here for the [BN] Blitz newsletter.)

SABRES

"Love" for Buffalo, chance to win led Jeff Skinner back to Sabres: Skinner, a 27-year-old winger, is suddenly one of the franchise's pillars after the Sabres signed him to an eight-year, $72 million contract late Friday night, and, as he recalled Tuesday, there was never any doubt where he wanted to continue his career.

(For more Sabres news, sign up here for the [BN] Hockey newsletter.)

WITH YOUR MORNING COFFEE 

You've probably seen the 1962 movie classic "To Kill a Mockingbird." I watched it again about a year ago — probably for the fifth or sixth time. The woman who at the age of 10 became one of the most beloved cinematic characters of her time visited Depew High School Tuesday. Mary Badham played Scout in the film. WIVB reports that Badham told students her experience growing up in Alabama in the 1950s and 60s was similar to the situations depicted in the book and movie.

In praise of paper. “There’s just something about handling paper that sends me to the moon and brings me back to earth at the same time,” says Janna Willoughby-Lohr, owner of Papercraft Miracles. The artist creates custom-made, eco-friendly items from her solar-powered workshop in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood. Willoughby-Lohr won an Ignite Buffalo grant from 43North, the region’s business competition. She's featured this month on Buffalo Boss Babe, a blog that aims to inspire and empower creative women who are contributing to Buffalo’s resurgence.

If you were asked to list your three “picture-perfect” spots in the Buffalo area, what places would you pick? It’s a tough choice, for sure. Our region has an abundance of picturesque locales that showcase nature, architecture and even unique urban streetscapes (consider all the murals that are popping up around town). Step Out Buffalo has selected 31 “Instagram-worthy” locations. Some are familiar venues. Other spots may have yet to come into your viewfinder.

Speaking of photo-worthy sites, there have never more ways to explore Buffalo’s heritage. Some adventurers are going a little bit British and hopping aboard the Buffalo Double Decker Bus. Others are burning a few calories on Buffalo Pedal Tours, renting kayaks or waterbikes or using old-fashioned shoe leather during walking tours. Visit Buffalo Niagara has compiled this list of 13 ways to tour “the unexpected Buffalo."

(Have feedback on the Good Morning, Buffalo newsletter? Email feedback@buffnews.com.)

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