Economists say that the refs are worth it.
"In terms of whether the refs should be getting paid more than between $80,000 and $140,000 a year, my sense is, yes, they should," said sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor who has published several books on the professional sports landscape.
"These are extraordinarily skilled people who are doing a job that is very demanding and even a little bit dangerous. The notion that these guys are considered part-time employees rather than people who need to stay in shape year-round and they need to study and learn and be trained about the new rules and regulations and be concerned about illegal hits and player safety, that salary range strikes me as on the low side."
But perhaps not the commissioner.
"Is the commissioner worth $12 million a year? On recent performance, it's not clear he is. What is clear is these referees have very significant value, and trying to play the game without them is hurting the game."