By Carl Adamec
STORRS, Conn. — Stefanie Dolson wanted to make one thing perfectly clear on Thursday. She meant no disrespect towards President Barack Obama when she and Kiah Stokes flashed “bunny ears” behind the president’s head during a photo opportunity after the national champion University of Connecticut women’s basketball team was honored at the White House Wednesday.
“President Obama’s a light-hearted guy,” Dolson said. “He was making jokes, cracking jokes at Coach (Geno Auriemma), even during his speech he was joking around. When we posed for the picture he turned around and kind of said, ‘Don’t go doing those bunny ears as a joke.’ Me, Kiah, and Stewie (Breanna Stewart) were like, ‘Should we do it?’ We took the nice pictures and then as a joke we put our fingers behind his ears. I thought it was funny. Overall, I thought it was a good time.
“Obviously there are people that thought it was disrespectful. I meant no disrespect towards the president. I hope he knows that and I hope everyone else knows that. It was a joke. When people see the video and know why I did it, they’ll understand that. And people that know me, that know what kind of person I am, know I would never disrespect any person like that.”
In the video of the ceremony in the East Room, Obama was posing with the Huskies for a group picture. The president turned and said, “Alright, no rabbit ears now.” Several seconds later he turned and said, “OK, go ahead.” Dolson and Stokes did.
There was negative feedback, though.
“I didn’t think anything of it until I heard about some of the reaction,” Dolson said. “Watching the video, it made me realize why I did it.”
Would Dolson do the same thing next year if the Huskies successfully defend their national championship?
“If he said the same thing? Yes,” Dolson said. “I am who I am and I’m not going to change. It made the moment lighter and more fun.”
Actually, Dolson has something else planned for 2014 if UConn earns another invitation from the White House.
During a private meeting between Obama and the Huskies before they went to the East Room, Dolson issued a challenge to the president — a dance off.
“You’re standing there waiting to meet him and the anticipation is killing you,” Dolson said. “He walks in the room and it’s like, ‘He’s really in front of us.’ He was very nice. When we shook hands I challenged him to a dance off. I had seen him on ‘Ellen’ and he danced. He was funny about it. He joked back that he was ‘going to wear the heels off of my shoes.’ He’s never seen me dance.
“We have got to get back there so we have the dance off.”
But even with the controversy, it was an experience Dolson won’t forget.
“The whole time you can’t believe it’s happening,” Dolson said. “When he talked about us being good role models, that was really cool. He has daughters so it was great he felt that way.
“It was awesome.”