Today in sports: The NBA lockout sparks its first racially inflammatory war of words, President Obama finally gets around to calling the St. Louis Cardinals, and the role NFL coaches play in encouraging illegal hits.

  • NBA union attorney Jeffrey Kessler has apologized for saying commissioner David Stern is treating the league's players like "plantation workers." The comment came a month after Bryant Gumbel called Stern a "modern day plantation overseer" on Real Sports. Not unsurprisingly, Stern's more than a little perturbed. "[Kessler] has been the single most divisive force in our negotiations and it doesn't surprise me he would rant and not talk about specifics," said Stern. "Kessler's conduct is routinely despicable." At least nobody's accused anyone of putting the other side in a "Gestapo-type situation" yet. The NFL lockout couldn't say that. [USA Today]
  • President Obama waited nine days to call former Cardinals manager and Tea Party backer Tony La Russa to congratulate him on winning the World Series. Suspicious! Especially since, according to La Russa, "we had a call from the White House to make sure they had the correct number for my office" before the series started. It's possible the president was attending to other matters, like appearing on The Tonight Show or picking an office-warming present for new chief of staff Pete Rouse. But the good news is they talked, and La Russa was able to operate the phone without major incident. [Yahoo]
  • Speaking of La Russa: He became manager of the Cardinals in 1995. Since then, America's had three presidents, ten American Idols, five James Bond movies. Now they're talking to former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona about taking his painful knees, two World Series rings, and newfound propensity for September implosions to St. Louis. He'll be the guy managing the Cardinals when your grandson makes his big league start. [The Boston Globe]
  • Steelers safety Ryan Clark was fined $40,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Ed Dickson last weekend and he's not happy about it. He also doesn't sound too pleased with the team's coaching staffwho told him he was using proper technique on the hit in question “This is something we watched in slow-mo as a team — as a team — to say, ‘If you’re gonna try to dislodge the ball from somebody,” said Clark. “This is the way you should do it.  This is the legal way you should do it.’” But it wasn't, which is a problem. Explains Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio:

This dynamic underscores the point made last week regarding the meeting between the Commissioner and Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  It’s the coaches, not the league office, who ultimately are responsible for instructing players on the line between proper and improper hits.  And it’s the coaches, not the players, who apparently are responsible for the confusion and frustration that has been expressed by players and, ultimately, by fans.

The easy fix, besides telling coach's to coach technique within the rules, would be to start fining coordinators and position coaches along with players who put on dirty hits. [PFT]