NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters Thursday that the chance of a lockout following next season is a "14" on a scale of one to 10.
Painting a bleak labour outlook Thursday, Smith said the NFL would receive $5 billion US from its network television deals even if no games are played in 2011. He regarded that as proof owners are preparing for a lockout.
"Has any one of the prior deals included $5 billion to not play football?" Smith said, referring to previous collective bargaining agreements that were extended or redone. "The answer's no."
Smith reiterated the union's demand that the NFL's 32 teams open their books and show who is losing money and how much. Citing financial reports by the community-owned Green Bay Packers, Smith wondered how such a small-market franchise can make a $20 million profit while other teams claim they are losing money.
But he noted that the Packers did have a profit decline, which NFL executive vice-president and chief counsel Jeff Pash said was 40 per cent.
"In most businesses, that would be a serious cause for concern," Pash said. "It would indicate a serious issue that has to be dealt with. You look at your single largest expense, which is player costs."
Smith said the latest NFL offer to the players would reduce their share to 41 per cent of applied revenues from about 59 per cent. He emphasized that the teams take $1 billion off the top of the estimated $8 billion the league generates.
Pash argued that the $1 billion reflects actual costs incurred, money spent in investments "in things like stadiums, NFL network, NFL.com, putting on games overseas, all of which is intended to and has the effect of generating substantial additional revenues that go to NFL players."