He had been on the pitch for just 38 seconds when he stamped on a Manchester United player and was promptly given his marching orders. His team were already losing 1-0 to their arch rivals and now they were down to 10 men.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, now a Sky Sports football pundit, put Gerrard’s “moment of madness” down to frustration at being left on the bench once again.
Others were less forgiving and social media overflowed with mock comments.
One tweeter suggested Gerrard be given a starring role in a movie remake, ‘Gone In Less Than 60 Seconds’. Another called for his image to adorn a new set of First Class ‘Stamps’.
Gerrard, to his credit, realised immediately the damage the incident could do to his reputation.
He wasted little time in apologising for his mistake. Straight after the final whistle he gave a TV interview in which he said: “I’ve got to accept it. I’ve let my team-mates, my manager and most importantly the supporters down.” He went on to take “full responsibility” for his team’s eventual 2-1 defeat.
He was probably being a little bit hard on himself but ‘manning up’ was undoubtedly the right thing to do. It drew the sting out of much of the criticism and won him a degree of sympathy. Importantly, he also looked genuinely upset by what he’d done.
It was a lesson for anyone who is facing a crisis of their own making.
Generally, when you’ve messed up and it is public knowledge the best way to contain the crisis and protect your reputation is to come clean and apologise – providing, of course, you look and sound as if you really mean it.
If you’d like support or advice about crisis communications or reputation management, please contact us on 020 8332 6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.