Allan Jones has made and given away millions of dollars in and around where he grew up and built his Check Into Cash in Cleveland, Tenn.
But some racially charged comments attributed to him about his hometown are also raising questions about the entrepreneur.
Gary Rivlin, the author of a new book on the payday lending industry who spent a couple of days with Mr. Jones last year, wrote recently on Huffingtonpost.com that Mr. Jones said Cleveland "has just enough blacks to put together a decent basketball team, but not so many that the good people of Cleveland need to worry about crime."
Lawrence Armstrong, president of the Cleveland-Bradley County NAACP, said he was troubled by Mr. Jones' comments, which he said may reflect an undercurrent of racist sentiment in the community. The NAACP as a national organization also has raised concerns about payday and subprime lenders targeting low-income, black communities.
"I hope to meet with Mr. Jones in the next couple of weeks," Mr. Armstrong said. "I do plan to follow up on some of the accusations that have been made to determine their validity."
In a prepared statement posted on the company's website, Mr. Jones called Mr. Rivlin's reflection of his conversation "unfortunate."
"I gave generously of my time to author Gary Rivlin to assist in the preparation for writing a book, purported to fairly represent the credit needs of the middle income working population and the markets that serve them," Mr. Jones said. "Unfortunately, Mr. Rivlin has chosen to rearrange some of my remarks to draw incorrect conclusions regarding my personal views and beliefs."
Jabo Covert, vice president of government relations for Check Into Cash, said 39 percent of the company's employees are black or Hispanic "and we are committed to being an equal opportunity employer and business."
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