Barkley was in Australia earlier in the year and watched an AFL game.
The outspoken Barkley, who retired from the NBA in 2000 after a stellar career mixed with controversial incidents, was not impressed with Aussie rules.
He thinks American gridiron players get a better deal.
"I don't want to insult the Australians (but) I am like, 'These guys are some damn idiots'," Barkley told the Dallas affiliate of ESPN Radio.
"Nobody plays football without pads every week for three, four or five months and don't make any money.
"At least in the NFL, you are going to kill yourself and ... you get to be a millionaire after it's over."
Barkley's comments were picked up by the American media, with the quotes appearing in newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Times.
The 46-year-old 11-time NBA All-Star is renowned in the US for colourful comments and unsavoury incidents including: attempting to spit on a heckler during a game in New Jersey in 1991 but missing and hitting a young girl; intentionally elbowing a player from Angola during Team USA's rout of the African team at the 1992 Olympics; exchanging words with Australian guard Shane Heal in advance of the 1996 Olympics; and earlier this year serving three days of a 10 day jail sentence for drink driving.
If AFL players want the last laugh, they can click onto the YouTube.com video below.
Barkley may be one of basketball's greats but, as the YouTube results show, he arguably has the worst swing in the history of golf.